The winter Olympics get underway in Sochi, Russia this week, and most of the attention about security has been focused on physical security and the potential for acts of terrorism. Russian President Putin has promised a “ring of steel” around the Olympic venues to provide a high level of physical safety for the athletes and tens of thousands of other visitors and workers.
Nevertheless, it’s expected that a very high percentage of visitors to Sochi will be attacked…online. NBC Nightly News just ran a story about the digital version of Russian Roulette that visitors to Russia will unwittingly play. According to Brian Williams of NBC News, “visitors to Russia can expect to be hacked” practically the moment they turn on their smart phones, tablets or PCs once they land in Russia.
View the full story on this news clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waEeJJVZ5P8
To summarize the report, Brian Williams and Richard Engel of NBC News say it is not a matter of “if” but “when” a visitor’s device will be hacked and data stolen off of it.
To demonstrate the danger, Richard Engel enlisted the help of Kyle Wilhoit, a threat researcher with Trend Micro, to set up some honey pot computers to see how long it would take before they were attacked. It was, quite literally, just minutes after the computers were turned on and connected to a local Wi-Fi network. Wilhoit said the data was being siphoned off to servers located in Russia.
Wilhoit set up two brand new PCs and one brand new smart phone for the experiment. He installed a fake profile for Richard Engel on the PCs. Hackers pounced on the computers almost immediately and began stealing the profile and contact information off the computers. And when Engel connected the smart phone to a local coffeehouse’s Wi-Fi, malware was downloaded to the device within minutes.
NBC News reports that Kaspersky Labs is charged with providing cyber protection for the games, but Sergey Novikov of Kaspersky says that hackers will have plenty of targets due to the sheer volume of devices being used at the Olympics. “Every segment of the infrastructure can be under attack,” admits Novikov.
Visitors to Sochi are advised to leave their electronic devices at home. If they simply can’t separate from their smart phones and tablets for that length of time, they are advised to avoid public Wi-Fi services and to remove sensitive and personal information from the devices before turning them on once they arrive in Russia.
While the Olympics certainly focus attention of the dangers of using digital devices in foreign lands, business travelers as well as tourists should be reminded that the hackers won’t stop when the Games are over.
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