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By | John Leyden 18th January 2008 11:11

Mexico and Africa to become malware hotspots

It's the socio-economy, stupid

Central America, India, China and Africa are likely to become the hotspots of malware production and cybercrime over the next five years, according to an analysis by net security firm F-secure.

The majority of cybercriminals currently operate from Russia, China and Southern America. The former Soviet republics have become fertile breeding groups for botnet client creation. For example, the activities of the Storm Worm gang are centered in Russia. Meanwhile, Brazil has become a hotspot for the creation of phishing Trojans. Old-school virus writers operated from areas in Europe (countries such as Bulgaria were hotspots in the early-mid 1990s, for example), United States, Australia and India.

The former Soviet Republic, China and Southern America have been hotspots of malware creation since around 2003, when malware for profit replaced mischief as a motive for creating computer viruses. Each of the regions contained individuals with sophisticated computing skills but without the job opportunities to make a living for themselves in the IT sector.

F-Secure reckons cybercrime will continue to be the main motive for malware creation over the next five years, but predicts that an alignment between broadband penetration and socio-economic factors such as economic development and lack of IT employment opportunities will see activity in the underground economy shifting towards India, Mexico and Africa.

In many countries, there will be a delay before the legal system catches up with developments in the IT sector. Computer criminals may also be able to escape the law more easily in countries which are undergoing serious political or economic upheavals.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, reckons malware creation hotspots are defined by a number of socio-economic causes – particularly in terms of job opportunities.

"Within the last few years, internet take-up in emerging markets has been phenomenal," Hypponen explained. "For example, Brazil now has over two million internet users. Since 2003, computer crime has really taken off in Brazil, China and the former Soviet countries.

"The trend is expected to continue and spread into areas such as Africa, India and Central America," he went on. "This is partly due to the limited IT job prospects in these markets. People are developing sophisticated computer skills, but have limited opportunities to profit from them legally." ®

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