THE BLOG
06/11/2014 09:45 am ET Updated Aug 11, 2014

Memo to World Cup Fans... Protect Those Smartphones

With three billion people on the planet agog over the FIFA Brazil World Cup, smartphone theft has become a pandemic that law enforcement can't handle.

It's as if some of the young and restless who can't afford the mobile lifestyle are not only wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, they're following the message of the revolutionary leader, who said "the revolution isn't a ripe apple. You need to shake the tree and make them fall."

Police units in Brazil, often understaffed and operating under tight budgets, classify smartphone theft as a petty crime when it's actually where the spiral of ICrime (some call it cybercrime) begins.

The bottom line is that it's up to you to avoid being a victim.

Tourists who visit Brazil are encouraged to go through the procedure of filing a complaint at a local police station (delegacia), but law enforcement has little time to budget for investigating cases unless officials notice a pattern of organized criminal activity.

As Latin America's largest country, World Cup host Brazil has long been tagged by Interpol as a major center for illegal smartphone trafficking.

Established gangs sometimes use minors as child soldiers to scout and steal smartphones in affluent neighborhoods of Rio like Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon and bring them back to their bosses, some of whom are associated with violent favela comandos.

In Sao Paulo, the restaurants, hotels and clubs favored by World Cup tourists around the posh Avenida Paulista are a target of opportunity for smartphone thieves.

Stolen devices are then quickly resold or disassembled and parted out just like automobile "chop shops" do with BMWs, sometimes to international ICrime gangs.

Recently, the state department updated its visitor information website for those traveling to Brazil, offering a a rather unflattering analysis of the situation (click on the safety and security section to read it).

As part of its $530 million program to guarantee the security of the World Cup in Brazil the government of president Dilma Rousseff has set up a special cybercrimes unit. But its primary mission is to defeat hacktivists who are using social media sites to brag about their plan to take down critical elements of the World Cup computer infrastructure.

World Cup fans in New York and throughout the United States are also targets of opportunity for ICrime.

If you get a quick refill at a trendy coffee shop and leave your phone unattended your mobile lifestyle and all the private data it contains could disappear and turn into a nightmare before you get back from the counter. Distracted, buzzed and cheering for your team at a local sports bar, bye bye smarty.

A study by the New York Police Department (NYPD) has found a direct correlation between the increase in smartphone theft and the launching of new models.

Samsung, Apple and Amazon are all launching new models as part of their World Cup marketing surge.

Football and the internet are helping to bring the world together. But without cybersecurity that starts with every smartphone owner, the much coveted mobile lifestyle the phones offer is becoming part of the class struggle between the have not's who seek to be included in the growing digital economy and the wealthy elites who are content to keep them off the playing field and on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Soccer (football to much of the world) remains "the beautiful game" for billions. Losing your personal data and private financial data to cybercrooks and hackers isn't so beautiful. With law enforcement and Icrime and cybersecurity experts on the bubble it's up to you to take charge.