Fear Hackers? Sochi is Little Worse than Elsewhere
How safe is Sochi for your electronics and personal data?
The games, like nearly all international events, have sparked a series of online calls to arms, with various branches of the nebulous Anonymous movement pledging action over issues as diverse as gay rights, Chechnya, and the destruction of stray dogs. More recently, a sensational network news report about how spectators’ and athletes’ devices could be compromised within minutes of arrival of Russia.
But experts say there’s one thing that might make the 2014 Winter Olympics riskier: the sheer number of people involved.
"It’s just critical mass," Jason Hart, the vice president of Maryland-based data protection company SafeNet, said Thursday. "From a potential attacker’s point of view it’s a gold mine."
The issue of cybersecurity at the games received a sudden burst of coverage earlier this week when NBC correspondent Richard Engel reported that his phone and two brand new computers were hacked within hours of having been set up in Moscow. Attackers began probing one of his computers within minutes of connecting to his hotel’s network, he said. At the local cafe, his phone was hacked before he even got his coffee.
"American athletes and fans now coming to Russia by the thousands are entering a mine field the instant they log on to the Internet," Engel warned.
But researcher Kyle Wilhoit, who collaborated with Engel on the broadcast, later said on Twitter that the phone was hacked only after navigating to a shady website and downloading a malicious file - a basic security blunder that could have happened in Manhattan just as easily as in Moscow.
Outside experts were unimpressed. "Most everything they describe in the story is as equally true at your local Starbucks as it is in Sochi," said Paul Proctor, an analyst at Gartner, a tech research company.