Venezuela is gaining a reputation for cybercrime as the country’s deepening economic and political crisis drives thousands into the underground criminal world, according to a report released by IntSights, a global threat intelligence company.
IntSights analysts discovered large-scale and sophisticated efforts to steal personal information from people in Latin America who work for a variety of companies, such as banks and retailers, and then either sell that information online or use it to collect even more data. The hackers are based in Venezuela and neighbouring countries, like Colombia, where many Venezuelan refugees have settled.
These information gathering operations are particularly lucrative for Venezuelans as they are sold for cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, a welcome alternative to the country’s own currency, which has endured rapid inflation.
And they’re not subtle about it. Specific information about the operations, like who the hackers are, where they are located and even hackers’ phone numbers are surprisingly easy to find, according to Charity Wright, an analyst at IntSights. Normally, experienced hackers operating in countries such as Russia, China and Vietnam hide by taking on alternate identities and profiles to throw people off.
“They don’t seem too concerned about hiding,” Wright said. “I think it’s because they don’t sense law enforcement will do anything.”
Venezuela’s hyperinflation has caused a deterioration of the national currency and, in turn, many Venezuelans have turned to cryptocurrencies. The International Monetary Fund says inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar, the country’s currency, is expected to hit a startling 200,000 percent this year. A cup of coffee that cost 150 bolivars in November 2018 now costs 18,000 bolivars.