A report by the internet security firm Norton estimates cyber crime costs to Mexico are nearly double what they were in 2011, highlighting the country’s status as a regional hub for online crime while the government struggles to keep up with evolving technology.
In its annual survey, Norton says Mexicans surveyed reported cyber crime costs had reached $3 billion, up from $1.8 billion when the same survey was done in 2011.
In contrast, Brazil’s costs went from $15 billion to $8 billion in the same time period.
At least one Mexican official confirmed the trend. Rafael Estrada Michel, director of the National Institute of Penal Sciences, told an international cyber crime conference taking place in Mexico City this week that cyber crimes were now generating more criminal complaints than those associated with piracy or drug trafficking, reported Excelsior.
InSight Crime Analysis
Cyber crime cost a total of $113 billion across the world and affected 378 million people between July 2012 and July 2013, Norton said. Hacking, scams, fraud and theft are the most widespread crimes, the company reported.
Cyber crime offers high profits with low risk, and Latin American organizations have been quick to jump on board. Cyber crime was reported to cost banks in the region $93 billion in annually in 2011 and over half of Latin American companies reported cyber attacks in 2012.
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In Mexico, the combination of rampant organized crime and high levels of internet connectivity led the country to quickly become a global hub for cyber crime. The country is reported to rank 8th in the world for cases of identity theft and to be the world’s largest distributor of child pornography. The fact that $3 billion of $110 billion in cyber crime costs globally originated from Mexico in 2012 illustrates the extent of the problem.
While Mexican organized crime is not thought to be directly involved in child pornography, the internet has become a very important tool for gangs, which use social media and Youtube to target kidnap victims, intimidate people, keep tabs on members and promote themselves.
Mexican security officials have pledged to fight cyber crime within their borders. However, cases like a recent security breach credited to hacker group Anonymous have highlighted institutional weaknesses in combating the rapid growth of the activity. A study commissioned by the Organization of American States released earlier this year warned Latin American governments were failing to keep up with criminals’ use of technology.