I accidentally stole the Peruvian Crime Ring

Soon Arriving in Lima last week, I did what most travelers do every day: go to the mobile store to get a SIM card with a local number. But this simple ritual, less fun than exchanging your dollars and euros, soon changed unexpectedly – I robbed terrorists.

As I was preparing for my trip, drugs were the last thing on my mind. In the days of the sanguine before Omicron, Peru seemed like a dream, heat and sunshine before we headed home to winter in New York. But the minute I left the Movistar store, the phone number in hand, I found my new vacation time: telling people they had the wrong number. I thought it would be a little frustrating, a few text messages before people texted. But things got strange when I lost WhatsApp.

Problems started with the front door. Instead of new information for a new account, I came across a list of multiple groups that I obviously already had. Even with my shamefully poor Spanish, words like “Dark Web” were very popular, and sexually explicit emojis did not want to be interpreted. Then I started receiving messages. And while many of you will never find yourself in a gang in Peru, your digital life faces similar challenges.

WhatsApp was hidden, so people were safe to talk freely. And he started talking more about drugs, sex, and other things that I did not want to interpret. People would tell me about the goods coming, mentioning places I had never heard of. I was in heaven, sitting near the roof pool overlooking the beaches and rocks of Miraflores, terrified.

I started playing video games in a crowd, an ignorant man who was killed because he saw so much. So I removed everything. Every message, every group. I also exercised to keep my memory down, and I forced myself to forget it. But the people kept on preaching. And when I went on to explain that he had the wrong person, he insisted: “Remove the number!”

And that’s how I ended up giving cybersecurity tips to the criminal gang. I promised to delete the account, to change the number, but then I explained how they had already been hacked. Like most WhatsApp accounts, the ones that led me did not PIN is, a security component that can lock what I did by accident, take someone else’s account, and someone else’s country. I could get a new number, but without a PIN, anyone who received the number that Movistar lent me could face the same risks.

Like almost every country in South America, WhatsApp is the most popular way to connect in Peru. In some countries, the Facebook app is ubiquitous has improved messaging, allowing users to smuggle the price of the mobile phone company and connect securely in areas where phones are not a problem. Another attraction, of course, is safety. But while concealment is important, it is not enough. End-to-end encryption means that Facebook and everyone who accesses your messages will not be able to read your posts. But he can know anything. With WhatsApp, they know who you are communicating with, the groups you belong to, and when and to whom you send messages.

When WhatsApp has supported the confirmation of two things since 2017, has not been a permanent requirement. And no one knows exactly how many WhatsApp 2 billion WhatsApp accounts are insecure. WhatsApp must make the PINs valid, or unchanged. But that is not all. Not only are messenger platforms stored as Signal having similar problems, but many others do too. Even after I removed WhatApp, I continued to receive a lot of texting from banks and paid apps, all looking to confirm who it was.

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