Russia has ramped up physical security for the Winter Olympics in Sochi – bringing some 50,000 members of law enforcement to the city – but it can do little to combat the deluge of cyber attacks experienced by visiting journalists and tourists.
On last night’s broadcast of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, journalist Richard Engel described an experiment he tried with a security expert when he first arrived in Russia:
We took two brand new computers out of their boxes and connected them to the internet. In a minute, hackers were snooping around, trying to see how secure the machines were. Very soon, I received a customized phishing message … when I tried to look at what had been sent, my computer was hijacked. The same thing happened with my cell phone.
Add it to the list of problems turning Sochi into a so-called “dystopia.” If “likely” terrorist attacks weren’t enough, now visitors to the Olympics can expect to definitely be the target of multiple hacking attempts as well.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning for travelers to the games that they could be targeted by “hacktivists,” though “no specific threat or target [had] been identified at the time of this report.” And on top of the threat from hackers and what Engel calls a “strong criminal underworld” in Russia, visitors will be susceptible to spying from Russia’s intelligence operations, which are legally allowed to conduct surveillance on anyone in the country.
So it’s a safe bet that if you turn on a computer or smartphone while you’re in Sochi for the Olympics, it’s going to get hacked by someone, whether it's a hacker on his own or the Russian government. With fears of terrorism plaguing the lead-up to the games, now visitors have cyber attacks to worry about, too.