When you’re going to a world-level sports event, the least you want to worry about is your cyber security, right? But here we are, World Cup 2018 in its full swing, and still getting warnings about potential hacking attacks. In a way, it may seem that this paranoia about Russian hackers is over-the-top, but security officials maintain that no one is “too insignificant to be targeted.” So here we are, covering potential security risks in Russia, while we could be getting hyped for the quarter-finals. We would like to tell you more about these warnings, and just give you an overall check-up list of the things you could take into consideration if you want to protect your mobile device from hackers.
Right before the beginning of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, a counterspy from the US intelligence agency was very straightforward when he said that travelers should avoid taking electronic devices to Russia if they don’t want to get hacked. The counterspy in question is William Evanina, and his credentials should be enough to make anyone take his warning seriously because, aside from being an FBI agent, the man is also the director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
According to Mr. Evanina, anyone can be targeted by the Russian hackers, and no one should feel that they are not important enough to be hacked. Of course, corporate and government officials are thought to be the most at risk in this case, but Mr. Evanina is sure that anyone with a device that can store data could become a target. It is recommended to keep most of the commonly used devices at home or take phones, laptops or tablets that people do not use on a daily basis. What’s more, to avoid a potential hack, Mr. Evanina recommends removing the battery when the device is not in use.
Where Does the Russian Hacker Paranoia Come from?
We could probably trace down the animosity and distrust towards Russians all the way back to the Cold War, but this is no time and place for a history lesson. Perhaps the easiest way to explain it would be mentioning the ongoing paranoia about the 2016 presidential election, where various parties still claim that the Russians meddled with the results. And since the investigation into the matter is still ongoing, security officials recommend everyone to be careful about their devices and their data.
Another thing is that the United States citizens aren’t the only ones warned about potential hack attacks in Russia. Similar warnings were issued by the British security agencies too. And it is not just the British public that has been warned. The warnings were extended to the England football team as well, which is still competing for the World Cup (at the time of writing). The British National Cyber Security Centre releases statements about threats and offers guidance on a regular basis, and it even suggested several guidelines that users should employ if they want to avoid getting hacked in Russia.
How to Improve Your Own Cyber Security?
We would like to take a look at those NCSC guidelines, to get a better hang of what users should do to protect themselves. Please note that you can get more content on the matter by visiting the NCSC blog, and taking from there.
The guidelines are divided into two bulks: before traveling and while abroad. Some of the points could be really simple for frequent travelers, but we have to remember that such events like the World Cup lure out even those who seldom deviate further from their house than their usual commuting route.
Therefore, one of the most important things to remember is that you need to check with your operator whether your devices will work properly abroad. Do not forget to check rates so that you wouldn’t get a shock when you receive your bills a month later! Another thing is that all your apps have to be up to date. When an app is not up to date, it is easy to hack it and exploit it, so any security specialist will tell you that your apps and programs need to be updated all the time!
You should also make it hard for other people to access your accounts. For that, you can use strong passwords or password managers, and you should also refrain from downloading apps from unofficial sources. Unofficial apps could make it really easy for hackers to slither into your device, so it is necessary not to give them such chances.
So let’s say you are already on your trip, what should you pay attention to when you’re away from home? According to the NCSC, if you can, avoid using public Wi-Fi, or simply do not enter sensitive information into your device while you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Also, you need to be careful about sharing your devices with others and about using such things as USB flash drives because those are quite often employed to transmit malicious software. And basically, staying alert and aware of your surroundings is always a good choice.
When All Else Fails…
Right here you might think that such measures may not be enough to protect your data from Russian hackers. After all, if even the Russian government hackers are expected to make attempts at hacking into personal devices, would such measures really help you avoid that?
The answer is probably no. However, we are not talking here about completely blocking hacking attempts. Let’s say, if a hacker is determined and talented, even the biggest wall can be penetrated. We’re talking here about making it HARDER for hackers to reach it. Employing these measures shows that you care, and it really makes it more challenging for cyber criminals to get into your device.
So please do not hesitate to take all the precautions to protect yourself from potential hacking attempts. And if you feel that you need more assistance and more detailed guidelines on the matter, please feel free to leave us a comment.
- AFP. World Cup: US spy warns Russians will hack phones, computers. The Economic Times.
- News Nation Bureau. World Cup 2018: US spy warns Russians will hack smartphones, computers. News Nation.
- Reuters Staff. Exclusive: U.S. counterspy warns World Cup travelers’ devices could be hacked. Reuters.
- Sarah L. Avoid scoring a cyber security own goal this summer. National Cyber Security Centre.
- World Cup 2018: US spy warns Russians will hack phones, computers. Vanguard