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Russia might try to hack fans and players at World Cup, U.S. and U.K. warn

“If you can do without the device, don't take it.”

by Greg Walters
Jun 13 2018, 6:19pm

Soccer fans hoping to snag a selfie with their favorite players at this year’s World Cup in Russia have been warned: Leave that smartphone at home.

U.S. and UK counterintelligence officials are warning visiting fans and players that Russia’s notorious army of hackers may tap into their devices while attending the games, which kick off this week and run through mid-July in cities across Russia.

Any personal information stored on computers or phones brought into Russia may be accessed by the Russian government or cyber criminals, William Evanina, the top U.S. counterintelligence official, told Reuters on Tuesday.

If you must bring a smartphone, consider buying a burner, he said.

“Corporate and government officials are most at risk, but don't assume you're too insignificant to be targeted,” Evanina told the agency. “If you can do without the device, don't take it. If you must take one, take a different device from your usual one and remove the battery when not in use.”

Russia has earned a reputation for hacking lately, especially in the wake of allegations that spies directed by Moscow penetrated the servers of the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 U.S. election. Cyber groups linked to Russia have also been accused of targeting the sports world, including the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency.

READ: Whoever hacked the DNC is now going after the Senate and the Olympics

Evanina’s warning appeared on the same day the Guardian reported that players on the British team have been advised by UK officials that they may be seen as soft targets for Russian hackers.

They’ve been told not to access online banking from Russia and to avoid doing anything on the internet that might embarrass them if it’s ever made public, the paper said.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Center has even published a handy online guide for those traveling to the World Cup who are worried about their cyber security.

“If you are traveling to the FIFA™ World Cup in Russia this summer, it's understandable that you may be thinking about how best to secure your devices and key accounts,” the site offers.

Recommended tips include bringing only necessary electronic devices, updating all apps, installing anti-virus software and turning on two-factor identification.

“Avoid scoring a cyber security own goal this summer,” the site playfully warns.

Cover image: A statue of Lenin stands outside the stadium after the official training session of the Russian team one the eve of the group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the 2018 soccer World Cup at Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)