Cybersecurity and the 2022 Winter Olympics [Weekly Cybersecurity Brief]

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing have officially kicked off. But preparing for their competitions may not be the only thing that athletes must worry about. This week we are breaking down the cybersecurity concerns that Olympians are being asked to consider.

As NPR’s Sharon Pruitt-Young put it, “Athletes on their way to the 2022 Winter Olympics have a new item to add to their packing list: a burner phone.” This unusual request stems from a warning that was issued by the FBI earlier last week pertaining to those traveling to Beijing for the games including the Paralympics in March. The advisory seeks to prevent athletes from leaving personal information that their regular devices would store vulnerable to malicious activity such as ransomware, malware and data theft attacks. The agency stated, “The FBI to date is not aware of any specific cyber threat against the Olympics but encourages partners to remain vigilant and maintain best practices in their network and digital environments.”

According to a Yahoo Sports article, one Team USA Olympian, Kelly Curtis, shared that she and others were told by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to assume “that all data and communications in China can be monitored, compromised or blocked.” In addition to taking precautions with phones, it was also reportedly advised to clean out computers that attendees planned to use. Although the Beijing organizing committee told Yahoo Sports that it is strictly against cyberattacks, the U.S. wasn’t the only country to recommend such an approach. Based on information included in the article, Germany outlined similar practices as well. 

While some concerns remain private, one of the elements supposedly driving the push for such vigilance is the state of geopolitical concerns. But what was revealed as another major factor is an app that was introduced to track participants’ health in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. TechRepublic reports that potential risks with what is known as the “My 2022” app were identified by Toronto’s Citizen Lab. Topping the list of those risks is the possibility of personal data loss. On an even broader scale, issues associated with the app have been connected to issues reflected by the Internet of Things and how cities like Beijing and large-scale events like the Olympics are increasingly reliant on such tech. 

Moreover, history heightens the topic of cybersecurity around the Olympics. TechRepublic points to the fact that both London and Rio were forced to deal with IT problems that unfolded when they were hosts of the games. Plus, there was the incident at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in which hackers attempted to interfere with the opening ceremonies. Most recently, NPR reminded us that “The 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were the targets of more than 450 million cyberattacks.” Despite their inability to create actual impact, they were successful at establishing the Olympics as a leading cybersecurity event.

Key Takeaways:

“FBI advises athletes to leave their personal phones at home for the Beijing Olympics” – Sharon Pruitt-Young, NPR

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1077318617/winter-olympics-fbi-warning-cellphones-cyberattacks

  • Athletes participating in the Beijing Olympics have been asked to use a burner phone to avoid potential cybersecurity concerns.
  • The request comes from a warning issued by the FBI and is partially driven by concerns presented over the “My 2022” health tracking app.
  • The FBI stated, “”The FBI to date is not aware of any specific cyber threat against the Olympics but encourages partners to remain vigilant and maintain best practices in their network and digital environments.”

“China is watching Olympians go to great lengths to avoid stolen data at 2022 Games” – Henry Bushnell, Yahoo Sports

http://sports.yahoo.com/china-is-watching-olympians-go-to-great-lengths-to-avoid-stolen-data-065952595.html

  • According to a Yahoo Sports article, one Team USA Olympian, Kelly Curtis, shared that she and others were told by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to assume “that all data and communications in China can be monitored, compromised or blocked.”
  • In addition to taking precautions with phones, it was also reportedly advised to clean out computers that attendees planned to use.
  • Alongside the U.S., Germany has also released similar security recommendations. 

“Cybersecurity worries at the Olympics range from personal phones to public water supplies” – Veronica Combs, TechRepublic

https://www.techrepublic.com/article/cybersecurity-worries-at-the-olympics-range-from-personal-phones-to-public-water-supplies/

  • An app that was introduced to track participants’ health in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has also stirred cybersecurity concerns at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
  • Potential risks with what are known as the “My 2022” app was identified by Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
  • This isn’t the first Olympics to be impacted by cybersecurity problems, however. TechRepublic also points to the IT issues that occurred at both the London and Rio Olympics.
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