Companies based in Brazil have the worst cyber security ratings of any major economy in the world, a new study has claimed.
According to researchers, Brazilian companies are far more susceptible to malware infections, and nearly half of all Brazilian companies were found to have engaged in dangerous peer-to-peer file sharing on their corporate networks in the past year.
By contrast, only 11.6 percent of German companies took part harmful file sharing interactions.
The study, which was released Thursday by the Massachusetts-based security ratings firm BitSight, also found that Brazilian firms tend to suffer disproportionately at the hands of botnets that attempt to hijack private business networks.
Brazil has been working hard to combat cyber security over the past two years, with recent projects including a new $185 million underwater cable designed to link Brazil with Portugal and protect South American businesses from American surveillance.
Yet the results of this week's study suggest that lax company policies may be to blame for the bulk of cyber attacks targeting Brazilian companies.
American companies were also said to have under-performed alongside Brazil in terms of poor malware security, but the United States ultimately finished at the top of BitSight's study in terms of overall cyber security.
In assessing each nation's cyber security, researchers examined a wide range of public network asset information. A random sample of 250 companies was then used from each country, which included the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Singapore, China, and Germany.
Despite the majority of countries performing relatively well in the study, researchers found that companies across the globe were suffering from blatant vulnerabilities in crucial communication protocols like Heartbleed, FREAK, and POODLE.
Bearing that in mind, BitSight co-founder and CTO Stephen Boyer said that all companies should be wary of potential cyber security risks when preparing to set up shop overseas.
"Along with operational, financial and legal risk, cyber risk should be a key consideration when extending operations globally," he said. "This includes understanding the risk associated with sharing sensitive data with global partners and vendors."
Boyer also pointed out that fluctuations in security often stem from contrasting laws in various countries. In Germany, for example, domestic firms are fined for engaging in most types of peer-to-peer file sharing.
"Just as business practices and laws differ across countries, so do cyber security practices," he said. "When expanding globally, it is imperative to communicate best practices and establish a standard of security performance that can be implemented across the entire supply chain."
America wasn't the only nation to earn a top rating in the annual BitSight Insights Global View report. Companies in Germany and the U.K. were also awarded the firm's highest aggregate security ratings.
Despite boasting relatively high ratings, the U.K. has gone to considerable lengths in order to bolster its cyber security in recent months.
Earlier this year, Chancellor George Osborne pledged to hike government spending on cyber security to £1.9 billion. He also announced plans to launch a new National Cyber Security Center that will become the nation's "authoritative voice on information security".
"In the last year, two thirds of large businesses in the UK experienced a cyber attack. Almost a quarter suffered a breach at least once a month," he said. "Everyone has their part to play to close the chinks in our armor and the gaps in our capability."
Britain's small businesses owners say they are more than willing to accept fresh government assistance.
"It is truly staggering just how many small U.K. businesses rely almost entirely on their digital presence," said Graeme Donnelly, founder and CEO of Quality Formations, which is a firm that helps to form and support U.K. companies. "But it's even more staggering how few of those businesses understand the dangers of cyber crime and malware. Any and all help lawmakers can provide small businesses will make a world of difference."
In addition to malware vulnerabilities, BitSight's study also revealed that companies in nations like China, Brazil, and Germany suffer from a higher percentage of poorly configured email security protocols like SPF and DKIM.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]