Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Beware of Hacking Attacks, Warns NBC News
Visitors to the Sochi Olympics will have their devices hacked, according to an NBC News report. And it's not a matter of if, but when.
Most of the news coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics has been about how the small town in Russia is not ready to host the Olympics. Reports of a half-finished Olympic Village, streets filled with trash, media facilities being still under construction, delays in finishing hotels for visitors, corruption, and illegal landfills sprouting up around town -- not to mention the Russian government's position on homosexuality -- have all made the little Russian resort spot look like it's a backcountry not ready to host the modern world this winter.
But when it comes to hacking and cyber crime, Russia is fully up to speed. That's according to NBC News' foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, and a report about how the Winter Olympics in Sochi is "open hunting season" for hackers.
Engel said that soon after arriving in Russia to cover the worldwide sporting event, he was hacked. It happened "almost immediately," Engel said. "It doesn't take long here for someone to try to tap into your laptop, cellphone or tablet."
Sochi attendees beware.
Engel decided to see whether hackers would target the devices of visitors to Sochi, so he brought two brand new -- still in the packaging -- computers and a very popular recent smartphone to the Olympics in Russia: he had a Windows-based PC, a Mac, and a Samsung Galaxy S4 Android smartphone.
Engel worked with a top American security expert, Kyle Wilhoit, to set up two computers to track how quickly he'd come under cyberattack when he tried to use the internet. Wilhoit had earlier created a fake online identity for Engel, with phony contact lists with fake names, addresses, and other counterfeit information -- the only real piece of information being his name. He put that phoney profile on the computers and Engel's new Galaxy S4.
Engel then met up with Wilhoit in a café in Russia, and logged on to the internet to search for information on the Sochi Olympics with his smartphone. The cyber attacks started before they even finished their coffee. "Almost immediately, we were hacked," said Engel.
Hackers pushed malware on the smartphone to download and hijacked the phone, stealing Engel's (phoney) information and getting access to record further actions taken on the phone by Engel, including the content of phone calls.
Kaspersky Labs, a respected worldwide computer security company, is charged with providing cyber security for visitors to the Olympics, but Engel reported that there are simply too many devices with too many people for complete protection. A Kaspersky Labs spokesperson told Engel, "all this needs protection because every segment of this huge, huge infrastructure" can potentially be hacked.
As far as Engel's computers -- they, too, were immediately attacked: "It had taken hackers less than one minute to pounce," said Engel, and "within twenty-four hours, they had broken into both computers and started helping themselves" to Engel's faux-personal information.
Engel calls the Sochi Olympics a "minefield" of hacking, and urged visitors to simply leave their devices behind if they can. Beyond that, Engel said security and privacy at Sochi wasn't just a matter of hacking, citing a U.S. State Department warning to citizens visiting the Sochi Winter Olympics that they "should have no expectation of privacy -- even in their hotel rooms."
NBC anchor Brian Williams said visitors to Sochi should "expect to be hacked," saying in the strongest terms, "it's not a matter of if, but when."
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