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Ecuador: Security and Privacy Concerns on the Internet

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Picture by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador and reproduced under authorization

Ecuador has been in the headlines a lot in 2008 so far. First, torrential rains have fallen and have left much of the country under water. Then, the controversial dispute involving national sovereignty and its neighbor, Colombia, has also been in the news recently. Finally, the announcement that has left Ecuador's government in hot water [es] indicates that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has found shelter in the country. However, something that has not been in the news, but may be just as worrisome is the question of security on the internet and the recent incidents of hacking.

The hacking of the page of the presidency occurred in the middle of February, and was committed by a hacker who openly mocked [es] the security of government systems and assures he will get into other media portals. Carlos Jumbo [es], who works in this profession explains that it is not the first time this happened in Ecuador and problems like this can be solved:

Fácil de ubicar y detectar con prevención, el problema está en los responsables de las seguridades de estos espacios gubernamentales, deben saber qué hoy en día las verdaderas batallas se libran en el ciberespacio…. se tiene que aprovechar la reforma a la ambigua Ley de Seguridad Nacional que se debatirá en la Asamblea Constituyente, introduciendo nuevos artículos que conlleven a la protección de los recursos naturales y para la lucha contra el Ciberterrorismo, una amenaza creciente en América Latina debido al poco esfuerzo de los países en dedicar su esfuerzo en diseñar y planificar estrategias para contrarrestar estas amenazas latentes, mientras tanto, una cultura de Ciberseguridad puede convertirse en un elemento indispensable para el desarrollo de los pueblos con menor desarrollo.

It's easy to locate and identify with prevention, the problem lies with those responsible for the security of these government's entities, they should know today that the real battles are being fought in cyberspace…. They need to take advantage of the reform of the ambiguous National Security Law that is being debated in the Constituent Assembly, which introduces new regulations involving the protection of natural resources and the fight against Cyberterrorism, which is a growing threat in Latin America because of the little effort made by countries to devote their efforts to design and plan strategies to counter these latent threats. In the meantime, a culture of Cybersecurity can become an indispensible element for the development of lesser developed countries.

People and bloggers were concerned of this incident and Palulo [es] while visiting southern Ecuador tried to look for a technical answer from the experts at the Technical University of Loja. He interviewed two professionals who have deep knowledge of ASP applications, ISS servers y hacking. The following are Fausto Loja's opinions:

La servidores ISS pueden ser atacados por fallos en el sistema operativo utilizado para gestionarlo. En el caso de la página de la Presidencia se utiliza Windows, que no es tan seguro, y eso se manifiesta en la publicación de parches de seguridad (service packs) por parte de Microsoft; además “cuando los desarrollos no son hechos por quienes sepan de seguridad, pueden dejar muchas puertas abiertas”, y esto puede provocar que personas se introduzcan en las aplicaciones y hagan alteraciones,…

The ISS servers can be attacked by bugs in the operating system used to manage it. In this case, the page of the presidency uses Windows, which is not as secure, and this is manifested in the publication of security patches (service packs) by Microsoft , besides “when developments are not made by those who know the facts, security may leave many doors open,” and this can allow others to enter the applications and make alterations…

Some of these violations are common in Ecuador, but not when the company allows the opening of private data. A major telephone company in the country allows the public see all sensitive information about its customers. La Bitácora de Calú [es], warns:

Precisamente eso sucede ahora mismo con Pacifictel, uno de los operadores estatales de telefonía fija del Ecuador. Cualquiera está en capacidad de llegar a conocer no solamente el nombre, el número de cédula o la dirección de un abonado a partir de su número telefónico, sino incluso los números telefónicos a los cuales ha llamado, la duración de las llamadas y otros detalles más [..] Sin duda que para el propio abonado esta información le puede ser útil, pero Pacifictel debería crear un perfil con usuario y contraseña para que cada abonado pueda ingresar a un entorno donde se provea esta información, de lo contrario -tal como sucede ahora- todas tus llamadas -y las de tu vecino/a- efectuadas y recibidas pueden ser espiadas por cualquier persona que tenga un simple acceso a Internet.

This is happening with Pacifictel, one of the state-owned fixed-line telephone operators in Ecuador. Anyone is able to know not only the name, identity card number or address of a subscriber from your listed phone number, but even the telephone numbers to which you have called, duration of calls and other details [..] Certainly for the customer itself, this information can be useful, but Pacifictel should create a user profile and password for each subscriber to enter where such information is provided, or else-as is happening right now-all your incoming and outgoing calls – and those of your neighbor- can be spied by anyone who has a simple Internet access.

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