World Cup attendees of all sorts risk having their personal data compromised by hackers, state-sponsored or otherwise, the head of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center warned ahead of the annual soccer tournament starting in Russia this week.
“If you’re planning on taking a mobile phone, laptop, PDA or other electronic device with you — make no mistake — any data on those devices (especially your personally identifiable information) may be accessed by the Russian government or cyber criminals,” William Evanina, an FBI agent and the center’s director, warned World Cup attendees in a statement sent to Reuters on Tuesday.
“Corporate and government officials are most at risk, but don’t assume you’re too insignificant to be targeted,” Mr. Evanina added. “If you can do without the device, don’t take it. If you must take one, take a different device from your usual one and remove the battery when not in use.”
The 2018 World Cup is scheduled to start Thursday in Moscow, and cities stretching from Sochi to St. Petersburg are slated to host matches, athletes and attendees during the course of the monthlong tournament.
In the U.K., meanwhile, Britain’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) said it was “providing expert cyber security advice to the (U.K.) Football Association ahead of their departure to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup,” Reuters reported.
The NCSC issued a warning to the public last month urging World Cup attendees to take adequate security measures before traveling to Russia.
“Public and hotel Wi-Fi connections may not be safe; carefully consider what information you might be sharing when using these connections,” the NCSC warned.
Russian hackers have been repeatedly accused of conducting cyberattacks targeting the U.S. and its allies, ranging from the alleged state-sponsored attack waged against the 2016 White House race, to a sustained attack last year against Britain’s media, telecommunications and energy sectors.
More recently, the FBI warned in May that almost half a million internet routers around the world may have been infected with malware attributed to Russian state-sponsored hackers.
Moscow has denied targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential race and other hacks attributed to the Russian government.