The World Cup 2014 in Brazil is off to an exciting start, with the final match slated for July 13. Brazil will host 32 national teams and thousands of fans and visitors from around the world who will attend one or more matches taking place in 12 different cities across the largest country in South America.
Every traveler should be aware that Brazil is among the countries with one of the highest crime rates in the world, ranging from petty non-violent incidents to more serious criminal activity. Mega events, such as the World Cup or Olympic Games, trigger spikes in different types of crime and are a platform for activists and protesters to voice their cause. Therefore, it is important that visitors as well as the local population be aware and prepared for the most common security concerns: street crimes, cyber-crimes, and protests or strikes.
By practicing certain security precautions and slightly adjusting their daily routines, visitors can help protect themselves against these risks.
Street crimes pose the most prevalent security risk for visitors and tourists during the World Cup. Petty thieves and criminals will target out-of-towners and might attempt one or more of the following: pick-pocketing, mugging, armed robberies, car theft or carjacking or express-kidnapping (where the victim is abducted at gun-point, driven to multiple ATMs and only released after multiple withdrawals of cash have been made).
Keep a low profile: The general rule in Brazil, for visitors or locals, is to keep a low profile and use common sense. Wearing jewelry, expensive watches or other valuable items or expensive clothing, or using smart phones, tablets or cameras in public is not recommended, because it attracts the attention of thieves. Visitors should always practice caution and be aware of the environment when using cash or cards for payment at points of sale, or when using ATMs.
Avoid traveling locally on your own: Offenders are less likely to approach a group and more likely to target a single person. Whether a tourist or a local, being alone makes you a more likely target for express-kidnappings, where the victim is abducted at gun-point, driven to multiple ATMs and only released after multiple withdrawals of cash have been made.
Do not resist a robbery attempt: Many criminals in Brazil resort to weapons when carrying out robberies and do not hesitate to use violence. If confronted by an assailant, hand over any valuables quickly and without engaging in a discussion. Needless to say, avoid carrying your passport, wallet with large amount of cash or multiple credit cards. Do not travel with any valuables that you are not ready to hand over.
Use accredited taxis and avoid busses: Busses and bus stations are the most common pick-pocketing venues and should be avoided where possible. Popular pick-pocketing locations are also airports, hotels, and other public spaces. Taxis hired by a hotel or at a taxi stand are usually legitimate and therefore, safe. Others may not be.
Brazil’s crime trends and crime types are as variable as Brazil’s culture. Nevertheless, World Cup visitors should be aware that the exposure to criminal risks should be accepted as uniform in all twelve host cities. Do not assume that smaller venues are immune from crime. Be alert no matter where you travel.
The World Cup will be an attractive target for cyber criminals. According to a recent report, in 2013, approximately 22 million Brazilians were victims of cybercrime. This represents approximately 10% of the population. The fans and visitors of the World Cup will be considered easy targets by hackers. Assume that you will be cyber attacked in Brazil, and plan accordingly.
Avoid using wireless networks at hotels, airports, cafes and other open source WiFi networks. Wireless networks are among the most common ways that hackers are able to intercept and steal data. If you must use a wireless network at the hotel where you are staying, make sure to consult the front desk to learn the exact secured network name and log-in process; there may be several free, unsecured “hotel” WiFi networks your device identifies in the hotel, some of which may be illegitimate. Hackers set up fake “authentication” pages whose objective is to steal your data or download malware to your device, which will permit future access to your data. Even if you are connected on what appears to be a legitimate local WiFi network, refrain from conducting financial and other sensitive transaction over wireless networks.
Encrypt your computer and data before you arrive: If your computer or storage drive is not encrypted, it could be copied when unattended, even if you leave it in a hotel safe. Make sure that you understand how the encryption software on your devices activates. If you are going to be receiving sensitive files or sending files, make sure they are encrypted. Simple encryption solutions may go a long way in protecting electronic communications.
Ensure that your anti-virus and anti-malware software is up-to-date before you arrive: It can make a big difference in helping to identify potential intrusion of your computer should a breach occur.
Open emails only from trusted sources: Carefully review the headers of an email, and scan all attachments for viruses and malware. Cyber criminals frequently use “phishing” emails to prompt victims to enter credentials or download malicious software without their knowledge.
Avoid following links from emails or social media even if they appear legitimate. Visit only known and trusted websites by directly typing the address into a browser.
Leave laptops and tablets at home or at least consider traveling without any significant data on them, moving data to an external hard drive: Do not bring any account numbers, password storage, or financial information at all.
Beware of credit card skimming: When using a credit or debit card for payment, inspect the card reader for skimmers – devices that are attached in front or on the top of the legitimate scanner, to record the card data as you insert your card into the real scanner. Skimmers are most frequently placed at ticket machines, ATMs or point of sales terminals at airports, gas stations, and other places that receive a lot of traffic. You may also want to watch out for small cameras placed to record the PIN associated with the cards or all together avoid using a PIN at these locations. Cover the pin pad with your hand while you enter your pin. Never let your card out of your sight when paying in restaurants and stores – it takes very little time to clone your card.
In June 2013, over one million protesters in Brazil took to the street in unprecedented nationwide protests. The protestors had a variety of different causes, including stopping corruption, improving education and healthcare, and protesting excessive government spending on the imminent World Cup and Olympic Games mega events.
In recent months, protests and demonstrations have already started in certain locations and are expected to increase in frequency as the World Cup approaches. Anti-World Cup marches and protests are already being promoted on social media networks. While it is difficult to forecast the size, scope, location and demographics of the protests, demonstrations are likely to occur in all World Cup hosts cities. Corporations and individuals need to develop contingency logistics plans during the event.
Stay informed: Before you head out to a game or an official site, make sure to check with the hotel or a credible news source to ensure that there are no demonstrations, strikes, or other social unrest in the area where you are heading. Consider subscribing to news from your consulate or embassy, or a security company, for updates on travel and local activities that might interfere with your journey.
Have a contingency plan: Assume that strikes and work stoppages, should they occur, can paralyze public transportation and cause significant disruption preventing travel to and from your destinations. Make sure that you have a logistics contingency plan, selecting primary and alternative routes before you start your journey.
Emergency contacts: Prepare an emergency contact list and carry it with you at all times. Be sure to include your hotel contact information and names of members in your traveling party. This could be a life-saving measure should you need to be evacuated from a certain area or must get to a hospital.
Remember that while the majority of visitors and locals in Brazil are not victims of crime, the potential exists, particularly when massive crowds congregate for mega events. Take more precautions than normal, be safe and enjoy your travels.
With the opening match of the 2014 World Cup games in Brazil fast approaching, Kroll has launched a special service the Kroll Intelligence Report for companies whose employees or associates will be in the country for either the games or general business. Find out more.