Peru is no longer a dark, disconnected corner when it comes to Internet connectivity. Far from it. But as with everywhere else, with the convenience of widespread WiFi and cell service comes increased risk that cyber-criminals will try to steal your personal information. Here are 10 steps you can take to protect yourself during your vacation.
Some of the country’s remotest destinations, be they jungle outposts or Andean Inca ruins, have hotspots providing a few precious bars of Wi-Fi for the seemingly endless array of mobile devices that travelers can’t bring themselves to leave home without.
It’s not uncommon now to see visitors at Machu Picchu pull out their cell phones to call home or instantly upload a keepsake photograph to their Instagram or Facebook.
Almost all the hotels in major tourist destinations, like Lima, Arequipa and Cusco, offer WiFi, most for free as a courtesy service for guests.
But there’s a catch.
Peru last year ranked among the top five countries in Latin America for cybercriminal activity, along with Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, according to Dmitry Bestuzhev, director of Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team in Latin America.
With that in mind, here’s some advice on how to keep your web activity safe and secure during your travels in Peru.
- Run operating system security updates at home before going on your trip. Plugging that security hole with a simple click at home will keep you much safer from cyber criminals during your vacation. Clicking on a security patch that pops up your screen in the hotel room should be cautiously scrutinized.
- Clear the cache on your laptop and back it up before leaving home and clear all passwords you might have saved on your browser.
- Travel with a strong antivirus software installed on your laptop, like Kaspersky Total Security, which not only provides real time filtering to detect malware, but also offers strong protection against key logging.
- An encrypted password manager program is also highly recommended, like Kaspersky’s, LastPass, KeePass, RoboForm, etc.
- Enable two-factor authentication on your laptop and hand-held devices for web services you believe you just can’t do without (Google/Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). That way if an intruder does manage to get your password, the service sends a second code, usually via SMS, as an added layer of security to ensure it’s really you.
- Use HTTPS (a secured Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) connection whenever possible online to encrypt the data between your browser and the website that you are connected to.For just this purpose, The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation developed an extension for Chrome, Firefox and Opera called HTTPS Everywhere, encrypts communications with many major websites.
- Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) service, either free or paid, to further encrypt your connection and help block digital eavesdroppers and snoopers.
- Most hotels in Peru will generally employ a modicum of security sense when it comes to setting up their Wi-Fi networks, but even, so they could do a much better job setting strong access passwords and changing them with more frequency.If the receptionist tells you that the password is some iconic Inca name or word, like “Pachacuti,” “Chasqui” or “Intihuatana,” that should set off alarm bells to employ even more vigilance.
- Avoid online financial transactions as much as possible. Try to limit your Internet use to nonsensitive activities. Using some or all the above mentioned precautions, post updates to your Facebook, browse news sites and communicate via email with your loved ones back home.But be careful not to reveal too much personal information about yourself, nor a steady stream of news about your specific whereabouts or your itinerary.
- Do a full update of your anti-virus database as soon as you get home and run a full scan.