Swarms of Predatory Hackers Menace Olympic Tourists in Brazil

Shoppers at a megastore in Rio de Janeiro that sells official products for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games wear hats in the shape of Vinicius, the official mascot of the Rio Olympics, as they pose for a photo on July 17, 2016 ahead of the opening of the Summer …
Kyodo News via Getty Images

As if the crime, political instability, dicey infrastructure, questionable sanitation, and Zika weren’t bad enough, Olympic tourists also find themselves set upon by swarms of predatory hackers.

NBC News warns that security experts call Rio de Janeiro “one of the most potent cybercrime hotspots in the world, where a new generation of young hackers is perfecting and unleashing a spectrum of online attacks in and outside of the country.”

In fact, Brazil is now second only to Russia as a hacker haven, and it actually took the mumber one spot for the first quarter of 2016. Brazilian cybercriminals have a fondness for hacking bank accounts and cloning credit cards, sucking about $550 million out of Brazilian banks last year.

Thousands of malicious websites masquerading as Brazilian government sites have been created, while the use of phishing malware is growing almost six times as fast in Brazil as elsewhere. Lately, the hackers have been getting into cell-phone ransomware attacks, in which smartphones are sabotaged with malware that locks them up until a ransom is paid to the hackers.

The hackers are so aggressive that, while NBC News was researching its story, one of their reporters was robbed of over a thousand dollars by a thief who broke into his or her bank account.

Brazilian cybercriminals are extremely brazen, flush with the confidence that they are unlikely to be prosecuted and, even if they are, punishments are extremely mild under Brazilian law. According to NBC, teenage hackers “parade their riches in the streets, brag on social media platforms, write Robin Hood rap songs about their exploits, and spend their proceeds on prostitutes.”

Brazilian hackers rarely bother to hide in the “dark web,” conducting their conversations right out in the open. They even run “hacking schools” with publicly available addresses — you can look them up on Google Maps. NBC describes one class that costs about $75 and comes with 60 million stolen email addresses as a graduation present.

Most disturbingly, NBC reports the Brazilian hacker underground has begun attracting the attention of drug kingpins, who either purchase or compel their services.

“When you have… something like the Olympic Games you have such a target-rich environment of rich targets,” Kroll Inc. cybersecurity expert Alan Brill told McClatchy News. He said the Olympic tourist surge brought “people in many cases with far higher limits on accounts than otherwise,” who are “more likely to use ATMs.”

McClatchy’s report finds Brazilian hackers fond of targeting point-of-sale systems in restaurants and stores, swiping credit card numbers with malware and radio-frequency interception gear.

British documentary filmmaker Leila Lack said her bank card has been cloned several times, as recently as three weeks ago. “My bank told me it’s very common in Brazil. They expect it,” she said.

Sure enough, McClatchy reporters working the Olympics beat got robbed almost immediately, just like the NBC reporter: “Two McClatchy journalists covering the Olympics in Rio had their cards hacked and cloned soon after arrival, and a third was informed after making a remote purchase in Brazil even before arriving there that his card had been flagged as compromised.”


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