A new Brazilian law that aims to curb cyber crime will go into effect in April, as announced on Tuesday. The law, passed last year, will make cyber crimes a criminal offense with jail sentences ranging from three months to two years.
Brazil is the world’s fourth largest source of phishing, which cost local banks $700 million in 2012. Given the growth of cyber crime, there is concern that the jail sentences will not be severe enough to deter criminals who openly trade stolen information online. Limor Kessem, an expert at the leading international security firm RSA, predicts that the law will not have an effect on the level of crime until criminals start seeing their counterparts arrested and imprisoned.
Although Brazil is still considered an emerging market, 48 percent of Brazilians connect to the Internet and use online banking at a comparable rate to more developed nations. The seventh-largest economy in the world has a growing middle class—53 percent of the total population—that has propelled online banking and commerce into the mainstream. But the growth of the middle class and the resulting spike in Internet connectivity have made the country an attractive target for phishing and malware.
As Brazilian banks and businesses strengthen security measures and the government targets the hackers behind these schemes, experts fear that offenders will simply change their focus to other countries. The lack of a regional authority will make it easier to target other emerging Latin American markets as their banks and commerce become increasingly digitized. According to a recent report by the São Paulo based security company Kaspersky Lab, the lack of intraregional cooperation and legal obstacles “means that unfortunately, cyber criminals will enjoy easy money and impunity for some time.”