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Brazil's Net spawns pirates and prodigies
By Shasta Darlington
SAO PAULO, March 1 (Reuters) - While Edgar Nogueira's schoolmates in Brazil launch cyber attacks on NASA and top model Claudia Schiffer, the 17-year-old Internet entrepreneur plots his company's debut on stock exchanges.
The Rio de Janeiro high school student designed his own search engine Aonde (www.aonde.com) at the tender age of 14 and has since signed up big-name advertisers and lured potential investors to the company now valued at $5.6 million.
``There are some who want to build and some who want to destroy,'' Nogueira said from his parents' home -- which doubles as an Internet office -- on Brazil's famous Copacabana beach.
And Brazil is an ideal place to try both.
The country's nascent Internet market is one of the fastest growing in the world, fuelling hundreds of start-ups and attracting as many investors on the lookout for the next Yahoo! or Amazon.com.
But the complete lack of laws regulating the still-green industry has also made it a hacker haven.
In the first half of February, Brazilian cyber pirates not only raided the local Web, they attacked at least 17 international sites including government Web pages from the United States to Peru, the Federal Police said.
DR. DELETE AND INFERNO
The group Inferno.com.br scrawled this graffiti message on U.S. space agency NASA's home page: ``We don't see much difference between your security system and that of the Brazilian government. You get the picture?''
And while Brazil's Dr. Delete invaded Claudia Schiffer's virtual address, dozens of other Brazilian vandals left scathing comments about President Fernando Henrique Cardoso throughout the Web.
In Peru, Brazilian hackers defaced with offensive messages a site where April's presidential vote is going to be posted, forcing the government to temporarily shut the page down.
Under Brazilian law, hackers can only be punished if they also happen to steal, damage property or violate privacy, and limited resources have been set aside to investigate cyber crimes.
Ironically, the only government agency prepared to process Internet outlaws, the Federal Police's Department of Computer Crimes, has itself suffered an attack, according to local press.
``The party is just starting,'' invaders wrote on the department's Web site at the end of last year.
The government is scrambling to create anti-hacker legislation to control the cyber raids but some investors are hoping the Internet itself will convert some outlaws with its promise of big profits.
``If they were to put all that vice used to overcome systems into producing things you could have a huge intelligence bank,'' said Alexandre Marcel, an investor at Estrategia brokerage and adviser for Nogueira's Aonde site.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 02, 2000