In many ways, downtown Lima is a part of the city where you can get any kind of product and service, even those that might be considered morally wrong. The streets near the Civic Center , one of the commercial areas located near Plaza San Martín receive its visitors in the midst of passersby doing Christmas shopping, street vendors and the deafening and uncomfortable noise of the engines of the hundreds of cars that pass leaving a trail of stinking black smoke.
The colors of “Lima, la gris” are displayed not only on illuminated signs in gift shops, clothing galleries, and food stores , but also in advertisements for “Relaxing massages,” “Love spells,” and “Loans only with your DNI” that adorn light poles and even the sidewalk of the streets. The feeling that an illegal or dangerous business could be hidden behind each one of these ads is real and increases with each step taken on Av . Bolivia in the direction of the real reason that brings me to this place: Av . Wilson , that despite the fact that it was renamed Garcilaso de la Vega, it continues to have the same name because people refuse to call it something else.
Wilson greets visitors with the sound of Christmas lights, more street vendors , and the sound of buses falling apart along with ticket collectors trying to convince passersby that it’s a good idea to get on them. Some do.
The technological hell of Lima: Wilson Avenue
It is in this area, particularly in the 12 block of Av . Wilson , where people who need help with their laptops, cell phones , tablets, Smart watches, Play Station, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and any other element of technology , can come to do maintenance and repairs . If you ask for a price, the figure is probably much lower compared to others that can be located in other districts.
As I approach the businesses that are dedicated to offering these services, the offers begin. Men and women between the ages of 20 and 50 are standing outside of businesses. “Maintenance?” “ Cell phone repair ?” “ Password recovery ?” “Change screens ?” “Programs?” are the first offers they make me as they approach me with interest from the left and right with white signs that have a whole list of services, which also include the names of each existing social network such as Facebook , Instagram , Twitter , Telegram, WhatsApp and others.
The business service signs on Av. Wilson also include the names of social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, WhatsApp and others. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
In the first instance, I walk past everyone and go deeper into the avenue. At every step, you can see a technology store , each with the same offering and in the same way. After several meters, calm returns, but businesses are still waiting for their next client . It is at that moment that I decide that my name is no longer Renato, I take off my glasses, put on a hood and retrace my steps. Among all the offers that they made me, a man approached me and with a low voice said: “hacking? Instagram , Facebook , WhatsApp?
hackers for hire
It is not a surprise for the people of Lima that in Av. Wilson you can find businesses established by hackers in which prices are established to be able to enter email accounts and social networks for the correct price. It doesn’t matter who the affected person is or the relationship that links them, if you had the money in the right amount, then you could do it.
“How much do you charge me to enter a person’s account ?” I asked the man who had offered me the service. He was an overweight man, at least in his 50s, 5’7″, with brown skin and black hair. He was wearing jean pants and a green jacket when he approached me to better listen to what he was proposing. “Account of what? Facebook? ”, He answered me as he pointed me inside a store where they printed vinyls and posters.
I was entering the lion’s den and, from what I had previously heard, caution was necessary when making a deal with the intermediary because these people do not like to waste time on people who are not going to want the service . I only managed to say ” Instagram ” while looking at the sides in case someone else came to the place where I was. The number of people passing through the 12 block of Wilson had increased.
“That? It can be done in an hour and it can cost you 80 soles (approximately 21 dollars )”, the man who also looked to the sides as if looking for someone else, asked me. “How much is your budget?” He asked me. I had no real intention of performing the service, much less giving 80 soles of my money to these people, but I had to maintain my character if I wanted to obtain more information, so haggling over the price seemed the most appropriate thing to do at that time.
“I have 50 soles ( approximately 13 dollars ),” I told him. She told me that this was not the price she could give me, but if I was in a hurry, “the service can be done in half an hour. If you have the money now I can make you charge 60 ( $15 )”. The intermediary raised his hand and whistled as he looked to his left out of the room we were in. He started to walk and I followed him while he told me that the discount he would give me was “special” because the deal was immediate with him and that I should not worry about security because the person in charge was not him and it would not be done in the store at the same time. that we had entered
For an approximate cost of 15 dollars, people can hire a supposed hacker to be able to violate the privacy of any user. EFE/Sascha Steinbach
“Talk to the engineer and he will open the account for you right now. He will put a security filter on you so that nobody detects you. He will give you an hour to access. He will give you the account in half an hour, he will show you how he does it, he will show you the account . I have given you a special discount ”, he told me while we walked a few meters.
We find ourselves in front of a much younger subject, probably 35 years old or perhaps less who was shorter, perhaps 1.60 meters and with black glasses. He was wearing a red jacket, black T-shirt and light jeans. He could easily pass as just another client, but he was a hacker and in less than an hour he would be in charge of giving me access to the account of a person who didn’t really exist. “Do him the job for 60. He wants an Instagram account ,” the man said. The young man just nodded and he asked me to follow him.
From that moment began a walk along Av. Wilson in which my heart raced. At that precise moment I was next to a rented hacker who I was going to pay to violate the privacy of the person I want, a crime punishable in Peru with imprisonment for a period of not less than 2 years or greater than 4, a suspended penalty, but a penalty nonetheless.
The young man walked by my side without much qualms, greeting some people who were on the road. “Who do you want to hack ?”, He asked me while I tried to hide the nerves that the moment generated in me and as we approached República de Venezuela Avenue , one block from where I had approached the intermediary. I had to lie and apply a story that many people consider common, at least in Peru: “I want to enter my ex’s account,” I told him. “I need to know if he is unfaithful to me.” The young man did not react, perhaps because he was used to such requests or because he did not want more details of the false story that he had been sold.
“Do you have to give me the name? Only with that I can enter. Once we locate your Instagram we will copy the link , we will enter the system and a security filter and a password will be generated just for you. I will give you a schedule and from that date on you will be able to enter without problems”, the hacker explained to me as we reached the intersection with the Republic of Venezuela and turned left.
Tour between the Centro Comercial del Centro de Lima, the hacker businesses on Av. Wilson and the computer rental. (Capture)
From that moment the nerves increased. Not only because we had taken a path into some narrow alleyways, but because at that time, at approximately 5:00 p.m., there were not many people in that area. I started to fear for my safety the moment I told the young man that he really didn’t want to do the job and that he would forget everything because he was not willing to pay.
“Won’t the person we’re going to hack find out or have access to an IP address or something?” “No, none of that. This is a safe procedure for you,” he told me curtly as we crossed the street to get to an internet booth business , where computers can be rented for half an hour or an hour for any type of need. The young man entered and I stayed at the door.
accomplices or deceit
“Give me an hour,” the hacker told the business owner. “Do you have a sun?” He said, extending his hand to receive a coin from me. I did have some in my wallet, but giving it to him meant I might be making a mistake that could hardly be fixed if I agreed to go in with him. I lied again and told him no before his fixed gaze on me. “Better forget it, I don’t want to get in trouble with the police or the law. I’m not like that,” I told him as he backed away and he left the premises to approach me.
“Are you sure you don’t want to do the job ?” “Yes, sure. Tell the Lord that thank you, but that I am leaving”. “The Lord is not going to believe me, I recommend that you do accept the job so you don’t have problems.” It was at that moment that I froze for an instant. Was it a threat? What problems was he referring to? The young man kept talking to me and saying that if I didn’t accept the job I had to personally tell the intermediary that he didn’t want it anymore because otherwise I would have a problem and the hacker would be forced to pay the man anyway.
“He’s a policeman,” he finally told me as we walked back to his location on Wilson Ave. “He is a Terna”.
Terna Group of the Peruvian National Police
In Peru, the Green Squad or Grupo Terna is a branch of the police actually called the Urban Operational Tactical Intelligence Unit of the National Police and its function is to carry out infiltration work to combat common crimes such as robbery, theft and the micro-commercialization of drugs. What was a policeman from this group doing as an intermediary for hackers who committed crimes against privacy?
We turn again in the direction of Av. Wilson .
“If you decide not to do the job, you must tell the man personally and explain why. If he gets angry, he can take you and get in trouble for asking for hacks , ”the young man explained to me as we approached the place. In other words, if he committed the crime he wouldn’t have problems, but if he chose not to do it he would? They would accuse me of what? If the man was doing his job of infiltrating him, why would he reveal his identity to the criminals ?? What if it was a hoax and he wasn’t really a cop, would he still be in trouble? We arrived at the first place and I saw the man approach me, surprised because not even 10 minutes had passed. The hacker left me and went back to the place where I first found him. I advanced only the last steps towards the supposed policeman with my heart in my throat.
“I decided not to do the job, I’m not like that and I don’t want problems with the police.” The gentleman stared at me. “Are you sure you’re not going to do it? Didn’t you pay him?” “No”. “Ok, go away” were his last words to me. I could feel that the hacker was approaching me, but I didn’t turn around and accelerated towards the nearest Mall . I turned slightly and saw the two men looking at me and talking, maybe about me.
From that moment on I turned onto Av. Bolivia , crossed Wilson and never turned around again. If I had his eyes on my back I didn’t want to know and if I was in trouble, I didn’t want to know either. I quickened my pace even more but I wasn’t running. I was sweating. I walked into a computer repair shop agitated , asking how much maintenance was on a laptop as I pulled off my hood, stuffed it into my backpack, and tried to comb my hair. I don’t remember if they gave me the price or not.
I left being Renato again.
According to Meta, Instagram notifies users whenever a login from a different or unrecognized device is detected. It also sends notifications saving a record of the location from which an attempt was made to access an account. Due to current political events in Peru, asking a police contact if it was true that a member of the Terna Group was on Av . Wilson on a specific date is not a really safe option.
For now, the alleged hackers , intermediaries and undercover police are still in the same place, in the 12 block of Av. Wilson where they wait for their next clients to offer hacks and pirated computer programs.