Consumer, Consumer Threat Notices

Cybercriminals Just Warming Up for Sochi Olympic Games

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By on Feb 07, 2014

The World Wide Web is just that—worldwide. It allows multitudes of people from far-flung corners of the earth to come together, a fact that becomes even more apparent during global events. As the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are underway, security concerns are top of mind, and while many athletes and fans are on heightened alert for physical attacks, our increasingly connected world presents new potential for cyberattacks as well.

On February 4th, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a web-security advisory to those traveling to Sochi for the Olympics—as well as those watching from the comfort of their couches. Whether in Sochi or at home, there are some ice cold cyber scams that spectators should be on the lookout for.

Olympic travelers—Prepare to be hacked

Due to Russia’s system of lawful interception of all electronic communications, US-CERT warns that those attending the event should understand that no communications taking place over the Internet or via mobile devices should be considered private. However, what US-CERT didn’t warn against was the risk of cybercrime.

NBC News has reported that those traveling to Russia should expect to be hacked, stating, “It’s not a matter of if but when.” In an experiment run by the network, several brand new devices were loaded with fictitious personal data. Upon turning the devices on in a coffee shop, and connecting to the Internet, malware was installed in less than one minute, compromising both the device and the data on it. In other words, visitors to Sochi are ”entering a minefield the instant they log onto the Internet,” according to NBC reporter Richard Engel. Those heading to Russia for the Olympic games are being warned to leave their devices at home, unless they’d like their private data to end up in the hands of bad guys.

Home viewers—Click with caution

Home viewers across the world should expect an influx of Olympic-related online scams. Namely, US-CERT has warned that cybercriminals will use phishing attacks and Olympic-themed websites infected with malware to scam unsuspecting victims.

Cybercriminals frequently piggyback on major events, holidays, and other highly searched terms (such as celebrity names) to draw in victims, and the Olympics are no exception. Because this three-week long event is likely to attract a flurry of online traffic, cybercriminals are eager to take advantage of the buzz.

During the Sochi Olympics, be on the lookout for emails offering exclusive online coverage or behind the scenes footage of your favorite athletes. If you receive an email promising unprompted Olympic offerings, avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments. Additionally, be sure to stick to official streaming sources and websites when viewing Olympic event coverage online.

The bottom line is that there is always a risk of cyberattacks—but users are especially vulnerable during high-profile events, connecting multiple cultures and technologies, from all over the world. We may see a repeat of these security concerns when it comes time for this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Already, scammers have been using fake websites to rope in eager futbol (soccer) fans with phony tickets. As a lesson, we should all be hyper-vigilant when it comes to our personal security, and here are a couple of tips on how to do that.

  • If you’re headed to Russia, leave your electronic devices at home. Experts have warned that travelers to Sochi should leave their mobile devices and computers at home, if possible. In general, if you’re traveling, consider leaving your device at home or purchasing a temporary mobile device for the duration of your visit. If you really need to bring your own device, make sure you take the time to back it up before you leave and delete as much personal content as you can.  
  • Public Wi-Fi is still a big no-no. Whether you’re abroad or at home, it’s clear that connecting to public Wi-Fi is a huge risk, especially when conducting secure transactions. For optimum security, turn off the Wi-Fi option on your device when out and about.
  • Turn off your Bluetooth. Like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth allows cybercriminals an “in” to your devices. Keep your Bluetooth turned off when it’s not in use to avoid being infected with a Trojan horse or malware.
  • Only visit verified and trusted websites. Always be suspicious of websites that offer live coverage—but aren’t the official sponsor of a public event. Websites offering a deal that sounds too good to be true should also be avoided, as they may contain malware that can harm your devices and steal your data.
  • Install comprehensive security on all of your devices. Whether traveling abroad or roaming the streets of your hometown, it’s important to make sure that all of your devices are protected. Install McAfee LiveSafe™ service today to guard your identity, data and all your mobile devices, home computers, and laptops.

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Gary Davis

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