Argentina becomes haven for world's best hackers

Turns out Argentina is running rampant with some of the world's best hackers.

The Latin American nation has become a home base for the globe's best zero-day hackers, according to a report by the New York Times. Argentine hackers are the best at discovering so-called zero-day flaws in software – or holes and vulnerabilities in a software unknown to the developers and then exploited by the hackers.

These zero-day holes can be used to spy or even destroy entire computer networks. All kinds of U.S. companies, from those that make medical devices to those that make voting machines, are tapping into the Argentine hacking market to prevent a widespread hack like Sony’s.

As the Times explains, while it's unknown how many hackers there are in Argentina (typically not the kind of information people like to advertise) the Argentine culture and political history is why the country has become a fertile recruitment base for U.S. companies looking world-class hackers.

“Cheating the system is part of the Argentine mentality,” Cesar Cerrudo, an Argentine security researcher who is known for hacking into traffic light systems in cities across the United States, told the Times. “Unless you are rich, you grow up without a computer or reading books. To access new software, you have to hack it, and you have to teach yourself everything from the ground up.”

Living under the rule of a military junta – Argentines have become accustomed to circumventing government oppression and laws that restricted the kinds of books, movies, and even religious beliefs they should be exposed to. In other words, life hacking has naturally led to careers in technical hacking.

Hacking has become so popular there's an annual gathering of Argentine hackers called EkoParty. Here, hundreds of hackers gather and so do cyber-security companies and government officials looking to recruit hackers specializing in so called zero-day skills that could be used by governments and companies to spy on one another.

“Argentina put itself on the map as the country to produce the best hackers,” said Sinan Eren, an executive at Avast Software, a Prague-based security company, told the Times.