When it comes to cybercrime, most immediately think of Russia, North Korea or Iran. But according to Vade’s Phishers’ Favorites Report, the most phishing emails were sent from Brazil.
Brazil is a noted host of phishing scams. But few are aware of that -- or about the conditions in the country that allow cybercrime to proliferate. Brazilian scams tend to be creative and unique, and research suggests that over 75% of Brazilians have been victims of cybercrime. But Vade’s report shows that phishing has escaped the country, and fraudsters are infiltrating inboxes worldwide.
Adrien Gendre, an expert in email cybersecurity and Chief Products Officer at Vade had this to say about the report's findings:
"Brazil has been a hotbed of cybercrime activity for a number of years. Before 2021, cybercrime laws in Brazil were quite lax, so cybercriminals could get away with much more than they could in other countries. Certainly, hackers are not concerned with laws either way, but steeper penalties can discourage some from entering the field. Brazil got tougher this year with a new law that delivers harsher penalties to criminals who engage in internet fraud, so it remains to be seen if it has an effect going forward.
There are a few reasons why I think Brazil remained on top of the list of phishing senders in 2020. First, and this should come as no surprise, is COVID. COVID affected every country, but some worse than others. Brazil was one of those countries. They immediately saw a spike in cybercrime activity, and phishing in particular, at the beginning of COVID. Many of these emails were related to financial support and incentives in Brazil. We saw this in other countries as well: hackers playing on fears and insecurities, particularly financial insecurities. In the US, they did this with emails promising stimulus checks and other subjects of that nature.
Brazil's spot on top this year could also be attributed to a large banking initiative in late 2020, an instant payment initiative called PIX that rolled out to banks across Brazil. Sophisticated phishers pay attention to the news cycle. They're opportunistic. They see an opening and they pounce. PIX launched in November of 2020. In December, Vade detected significantly more phishing URLs than the previous month: 10 million more. Are they connected? It's difficult to say, but it is typically to see spikes after a significant event, including high-profile initiatives."