A poll by the Organisation of American States found that 40 percent of respondents had battled attempts to shut down their computer networks, 44 percent had dealt with bids to delete files and 54 percent had encountered “attempts to manipulate” their equipment through a control system.
Less than 60 percent of the 575 respondents said they had detected any attempts to steal data, long considered the predominant hacking goal.
The survey went to companies and agencies in crucial sectors as defined by the OAS members. Almost a third of the respondents were public entities, with communications, security and finance being the most heavily represented industries.
The questions did not delve into detail, leaving the amount of typical losses from breaches and the motivations of suspected attackers as matters for speculation. The survey-takers were not asked whether the attempted hacks succeeded, and some attacks could have been carried off without their knowledge.
The survey did allow anonymous participants to provide a narrative of key events if they chose, although those will not be published.
The report was compiled by Trend Micro whose Chief Cyber security Officer Tom Kellermann said additional destructive or physical attacks came from political activists and organised crime.
“We are facing a clear and present danger where we have non-state actors willing to destroy things,” he said. “This is going to be the year we suffer a catastrophe in the hemisphere, and when you will see kinetic response to a threat actor.”
Destructive attacks or manipulation of equipment are infrequently revealed. That is in part because breach-disclosure laws in more than 40 states centre on the potential risks to consumers from the theft of personal information, as with hacks of retailers including Home Depot and Target.