FBI Has Ominous Advice for Olympians

Bureau tells athletes to use burner phones, warns of 'malicious cyber activities' in China
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2022 8:00 AM CST
FBI to Olympians: Use Burner Phones
Canadian ice hockey player Melodie Daoust looks at her smart phone as players take souvenir photos at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(Newser) – The FBI is urging Olympic athletes to use burner phones while in China over fears that they might otherwise be tracked. "The FBI urges all athletes to keep their personal cell phones at home and use a temporary phone while at the Games," the agency says. It adds it does not know of "any specific threat" but urges Olympic attendees to "remain vigilant" and "maintain best practices in their network and digital environments" given the potential for "malicious cyber activities," including ransomware, malware, phishing campaigns, data theft, "disinformation campaigns" as well as the installation of "tracking tools," per the BBC and CNN.

There were more than 450 million attempted cyber-related incidents during the Tokyo Olympics, "though none were successful due to cybersecurity measures in place," according to the FBI. Its warning comes two weeks after Toronto-based cyber-security group Citizen Lab found the official app for the Beijing Olympics—which attendees must use to submit COVID-19 test results, vaccination status, and other information at least 14 days ahead of arrival—had a flaw through which a third party could access audio files, passport details, and medical and travel history, per the CBC. The MY2022 app, which offers GPS navigation, was also found to include a censorship keyword list of 2,442 political terms.

The National Olympic Committees in some Western countries have also instructed athletes to use temporary phones due to cybersecurity concerns at the Games, which kick off on Friday. "Some of our recommendations to Team Canada members include leaving personal devices at home, limiting personal information stored on devices brought to the Games, only connecting to official wifi, turning off transmitting functions when not in use, removing any Games related apps when they’re no longer necessary, and to practice good cyber-hygiene at all times," a Canadian Olympic Committee spokesperson tells ABC News. (Read more 2022 Beijing Olympics stories.)

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