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Cybersecurity Strategy Advice for the Trump Administration: US-Brazil Relations

March 7, 2017


Dan Arnaudo

Feature Series

Cybersecurity and the Trump Administration Series

Regional Recommendations for U.S. Cybersecurity Policy in the World

Central Challenge

The US and Brazil are the two largest economies in the hemisphere as well as the two largest transit points for Internet traffic. Brazil’s centrality to Internet traffic and economic strength will make it a crucial partner on issues such as cybercrime, critical infrastructure protection, and universal access.


  1. Look to the Brazilian model of Internet governance.
  2. Increase multi-stakeholder collaboration.
  3. Respect transparency and freedom of information.

The US and Brazil are the two largest economies in the hemisphere as well as the two largest transit points for Internet traffic. The traffic moving through both countries is only going to grow, but with Brazil inaugurating six new fiber optic cables in the next year — including three to the US — Brazil will be especially significant to the global network in the coming years in a way that it wasn’t before. The incoming administration, and ones that follow it, need to acknowledge and work with Brazil managing this network, and encouraging collaboration throughout the Americas on issues such as cybercrime, critical infrastructure protection, and universal access.


In 2013, following disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff denounced the US government’s programs to intercept massive amounts of data from around the world. With a speech at the United Nations, she called on the country to develop independent linkages to the rest of the world, including new transatlantic fiber optic cables outside of the US, satellites, and a stronger Brazilian technology sector backed by domestic encryption systems.[1] She also promoted its model of multi-stakeholder Internet governance worldwide — a move exemplified by efforts such as its Digital Bill of Rights, known in Portuguese as the Marco Civil da Internet, signed into law at the NetMundial Global Conference on Internet Governance.[2] Events have rapidly deteriorated since that watershed moment.

Since then, Brazil has experienced an interconnected political and economic meltdown. Its reliance on high oil prices to fund investments, a strong dollar, and lower commodity prices in general have critically damaged the economy. The Brazilian GDP hardly grew in 2014 and then shrank by 3.8% and 4% in 2015 and 2016, respectively.[3]

At the same time, this economic reversal helped foster a growing opposition to Rousseff in the wake of her 2014 re-election. Conservative rivals pushed for her impeachment for mismanaging the economy generally and for specifically manipulating government financial reports during the election campaign. With the support of a majority in Congress, they succeeding in suspending her from office in May 2016 and replacing her with the Vice President, Michel Temer, of the opposition center right PMDB party.

However, Temer and his allies are also tainted. As of December 2016, he has lost six Ministers to corruption allegations, mostly centering around the “Car Wash” [Lava Jato] investigation that has tarnished members of Congress and the government — even former President Luiz Ignacio de Silva, aka Lula. Under Lula and Rousseff, Brazil invested heavily in infrastructure and construction as it emerged as a strong, growing member of Global South and BRICS in the 2000s, especially to support the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. It is becoming clear that the investment in these games and other large real estate and infrastructure came with large payoffs to support political campaigns and candidates of all parties, and the socialist, state driven economic model they promoted as the head of the Workers Party (PT or Partido das Trabalhadores) was unsustainable.

Recommendation 1: Look to the Brazilian model of Internet governance

Despite its struggles, Brazil remains one of the strongest models for multi-stakeholder Internet governance in the world. The Trump Administration should take a page from Brazil’s approach and listen to the advice of other sectors, whether public, private, academic or civil society.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) runs the global Internet Domain Name System (DNS) through a similar system, and is moving the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) further in this direction and outside of US control.[4] The President should support this transition and can understand how a multi-stakeholder system truly works through the Brazilian model.

Brazilian institutions show a way to create meaningful collaboration and management of Internet and cybersecurity issues across sectors. The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (Comitê Gestor da Internet)[5] and its Network Information Center[6] are prime examples. Together, they form a nonprofit that advises policymakers on online governance issues, collects data about Internet usage, manages the Domain Name System for .br and coordinates the Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) around the country, amongst other functions.

Recommendation 2: Increase multi-stakeholder collaboration

Additionally, the Brazilian model offers instruction for collaboration. The new administration should increase multi-stakeholder collaboration on the US CERT system, and develop mechanisms for coordinating private and public sector responses to the threats.

Brazil has had a lot of experience developing systems to track and secure mega events online, such as the World Cup, Olympics and Pope Francis’s World Youth Day in 2013. Organizations such as the FBI, DHS, and CYBERCOM could learn from the Brazilians on how to coordinate responses in cooperation with the private sector to develop online security for mega events like the Super Bowl.

Recommendation 3: Respect transparency and freedom of information

The current Brazilian political situation offers lessons for every democracy about respecting transparency and freedom of information requirements. A lot of the scandal in Brazilian governance overall centers around a lack of accountability and an inability to provide an explanation of the economic and political issues facing the country. Without true openness on cybersecurity, Internet governance or any other issue, President Trump will face similar gridlock in a severely divided political system.


[1] Borger, J. (2013, September 24). Brazilian president Rousseff: US surveillance a “breach of international law.” The Guardian.

[2] McCarthy, K. (2014, April 23). Brazilian president signs internet civil rights law. The Register.

[3] “World Bank forecasts for Brazil, June 2016” . World Bank.

[4] Finley, K. (2016, October 3). The Internet Finally Belongs to Everyone. WIRED.

[5] Comite Gestor da Internet no Brasil

[6] Nucleo de Informacao e Coordinacao do Pento BR

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.