Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Susan Segal: Latin America’s Cyber Issues Need Attention from the Top

Bottom-up approaches won’t be enough to solve cybervulnerability challenges quickly, writes AS/COA’s CEO.
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This article is adapted from AQ’s special report on cybersecurity

Technology and digital access have empowered and democratized Latin America and the world. They have made us more efficient and clearly more productive. For Latin America, as in all developing countries, digital access and skills are critical to growth and development.

But they also created many challenges.

In the reports nations share with the International Telecommunications Union’s Global Cyber Security Index, 28 countries in the region have provided no incentives to improve private cybersecurity and 17 countries lack a national cybersecurity strategy to address critical infrastructure. The index reflects the enormous regional disparity: While Brazil is the best-ranked country in the region, at 18 globally, Honduras is at the tail end, at 178 of 193 countries.

There is no easy fix, but it is clear that Latin American countries must deal with the cybersecurity threat from both a strategic and practical perspective, starting at the highest level. To paraphrase Harvard Kennedy School professor Bruce Schneier, a hacker will follow the rules of a system — only to subvert them. The challenge requires a proactive and cooperative approach, with countries working together.

Even if there were enthusiasm across the region, progress could be challenging given the different levels of development, infrastructure, and experience. But addressing the issue becomes ever more important as Latin America continues to digitize, while data becomes so much more central in our everyday lives. If there is not sufficient protection around data, it will not only tempt incremental cybercrime but erode public confidence, which is key to the future.

Cybersecurity and data protection must be on the leaders’ and ministerial agenda if the issue is to be addressed appropriately in an acceptable time frame.


Segal is President and CEO of Americas Society and Council of the Americas.
Tags: cybersecurity, Latin America, Technology
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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