World Cup fans travelling to Russia should leave their phones at home as they are likely to be HACKED by cyber criminals or government spies, warn intelligence agencies
- The 2018 Fifa World Cup is due to kick off in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday
- Intelligence agencies have warned that fans will be targeted by hackers
- Phones taken to the event are likely to be hacked by Russian spies and criminals
- As many as 400,000 foreign fans are expected to visit Russia for the tournament
Top counterintelligence officials have advised World Cup fans travelling to Russia to leave their phones at home to avoid the prying eyes of spies and criminals.
Intelligence agencies warn that electronic devices taken to the tournament, which kicks off on Thursday, are likely to be hacked by cyber criminals or Russian agents.
Fans who need access to a mobile should instead bring ‘burner phones’ that can be used at the event and then destroyed before heading home, security experts at the FBI and Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ said.
They added that fans should be wary of hotel and public Wi-Fi and keep their devices with them at all times.
The warnings came as it was revealed earlier this week that the England football team has received security guidance, including how to hide their belongings in their hotel rooms, from officers at GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre.
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Top counterintelligence officials have advised World Cup fans travelling to Russia to leave their phones at home to avoid the prying eyes of government agents. In this image football fans take pictures at a Uruguay training session in Russia ahead of the tournament
As many as 400,000 foreign fans are expected to travel to Russia for the 31-day tournament, according to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia.
In a statement to Reuters, William Evanina, an FBI agent and the director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Centre, warned World Cup travellers that even if they think they are insignificant, hackers could still target them.
‘If you’re planning on taking a mobile phone, laptop, PDA, or other electronic device with you – make no mistake – any data on those devices (especially your personally identifiable information) may be accessed by the Russian government or cyber criminals,’ he said.
‘Corporate and government officials are most at risk, but don’t assume you’re too insignificant to be targeted.
‘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.’
Evanina’s warning comes as US intelligence, law enforcement and congressional officials are still investigating Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone with President Donald Trump’s campaign was aware of or aided it.
Trump has repeatedly denied there was any collusion and Russia has said it did not meddle in the US election.
Intelligences agencies warn that electronic devices taken to the tournament, which starts Thursday, are likely to be hacked by cyber criminals or Russian spies. In this image Egyptian football fan Mohammed Nufal visits Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square earlier this week
British security agencies have issued similar warnings to the British public and the England football team ahead of the tournament.
The NCSC, a branch of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), gave a host of security tips in a statement to the public yesterday.
It said fans should be wary of hotel and public wi-fi and keep their devices with them at all times, and recommended they check with their mobile network whether their phone will work abroad.
The NCSC suggested Britons heading to Russia consider taking only what is necessary, adding: ‘It may be safer and cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go phone.’
HOW CAN FANS PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM PHONE HACKING AT THE WORLD CUP?
Counterintelligence officials have issued a series of warnings about the threat of phone hacking at 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.
Football fans heading to the tournament should be wary of hotel and public Wi-Fi, as open internet connections are commonly used by hackers to break into devices.
Fans should keep their devices with them at all times to ensure they are not accessed by strangers.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a branch of Government listening post GCHQ, said fans should think carefully about how to secure their personal data and issued advice.
Counterintelligence officials have issued a series of warnings about the threat of phone hacking at 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia
The NCSC, in a blog post entitled ‘Avoid scoring a cyber security own goal this summer’, recommended fans check with their mobile network whether their phone will work abroad and consider taking only what is necessary.
It suggested: ‘It may be safer and cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go phone.’
Antivirus software and all apps on any phones, tablet or laptop should be up-to-date and data should be backed up before leaving for the tournament.
The ability to wipe a phone of data should it become lost should be turned on and all devices should be password-protected, with two-step authentication enabled on important social media and email accounts.
The NCSC urged fans to avoid streaming or downloading content from unofficial sites and advised against using internet banking while abroad, as well as plugging in any USB sticks offered as gifts.
Private cyber security expert Patrick Wardle said the official warnings constituted ‘really good advice’.
‘When I travel to Russia, I bring “burner” devices, so if they get hacked, it doesn’t really matter,’ he said.
A burner device is typically bought for temporary use, then thrown away.
US agencies have issued similar warnings before other major international sporting events, including the recent Winter Olympics in Seoul.
As many as 400,000 foreign fans are expected to visit Russia during the 31-day tournament, according to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia
UK government officials have also briefed the England football team on the risks of phone hacking in Russia.
In a statement, Britain’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) said it was ‘providing expert cyber security advice to the Football Association ahead of their departure to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.’
The squad was given guidance on security issues including how to hide their belongings in their hotel rooms.
As they touched down at their World Cup training headquarters on Monday details of the briefing – which had a particular emphasis on cyber security – were revealed.
Fans who need access to a mobile should bring ‘burner phones’ that can be used at the event and then destroyed before heading home to avoid their electronic devices getting hacked, security experts at the FBI and Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ said (stock)
Spy bosses stopped short of giving them temporary ‘burner phones’, which would be used only for their trip and then destroyed.
Instead, protective software has been added to the team’s phones and devices which will only be removed on their return.
They were also advised not to access their online bank accounts while away and to avoid any online activity that, if made public, could embarrass them.
The advice on cyber security came from GCHQ’s NCSC, which hosted a seminar at the Football Association headquarters in St George’s Park.
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