Sochi Olympics kicks off with potential privacy issues

Visitors for the Sochi Olympics could face phone and computer hacking

WRITTEN BY: Stephanie Choporis
Olympic Logo on Hong Kong Art Museum
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Olympic Logo on Hong Kong Art Museum

With the Sochi opening ceremony set to air in under two hours, the Russian city is experiencing privacy issues.

CBS News reported Friday that Sochi visitors run the risk of having their smartphones and computers hacked during their Olympic stay.

This claim is based on NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel’s, recent report that a smartphone and new set of laptops connected to a Wi-Fi network in Moscow, approximately 1,000 miles outside of Sochi, were hacked in less than 24 hours.

While the devices were prepared with fake profiles and data, it is unclear whether the network was secure, meaning it required a password to sign in.

Now, Engel’s report is being questioned after Errata Security said he downloaded a file from a suspicious website and allowed it to access the phone’s data. Specifically, Engel downloaded an APK file, which requires permission from users before being added to Android devices.

However, NBC stands by its information, saying in a statement, “The story was designed to show how a non-expert can easily fall victim to a cyber attack when they are deceived into downloading a piece of malicious software that is disguised as a friendly message or alert.”

Lookout Inc., a mobile security company for iOS and Android devices, found that in 2013, individuals had a 63 percent of encountering malicious software in Russia, while only a four percent chance existed in the U.S.

However, Lookout’s principal security researcher Marc Rogers said people will probably not be hacked if using their phones normally. Instead, he described it more accurately as Internet users being lured by robots, including fake news websites and look-alike official Sochi sites.

The Russian government will still be monitoring web traffic during the Olympics. But as a precaution, Rogers recommended only visiting familiar sites and using strong anti-virus software.

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