(WASHINGTON) — The FBI on Monday issued a stern warning for U.S. Olympic athletes traveling to Beijing for the Winter Olympics: keep your personal cellphones at home and use a burner phone.

“The FBI urges all athletes to keep their personal cell phones at home and use a temporary phone while at the Games,” according to a notice sent by the agency. “While there were no major cyber disruptions, the most popular attack methods used were malware, email spoofing, phishing and the use of fake websites and streaming services designed to look like official Olympic service providers.”


“These activities include distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware, malware, social engineering, data theft or leaks, phishing campaigns, disinformation campaigns, or insider threats, and when successful, can block or disrupt the live broadcast of the event, steal or leak sensitive data, or impact public or private digital infrastructure supporting the Olympics,” the FBI warned.

During the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, there were more than 450 million attempted cyber-related incidents, “though none were successful due to cybersecurity measures in place,” the FBI said.

The agency said the use of digital wallets and mobile COVID-19 vaccination cards “could also increase the opportunity for cyber actors to steal personal information or install tracking tools, malicious code or malware,” adding that athletes will be required to download an app which will be used to track health and travel.


During the 2018 Winter Olympics, Russian cyber actors “conducted a destructive cyberattack against the Opening Ceremony, enabled through spear phishing campaigns and malicious mobile applications,” the FBI said. “The download and use of applications, including those required to participate or stay in country, could increase the opportunity for cyber actors to steal personal information or install tracking tools, malicious code, or malware.”

The Canadian Olympic Committee has also issued a similar statement urging athletes to leave their phones at home.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee works with cybersecurity experts, government agencies, the International Olympic Committee, and other National Olympic Committees to ensure we have appropriate plans for every Games environment we work in.,” a COC spokesperson told ABC News last week. “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.”


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