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The FBI is urging Olympic athletes to use burner phones. Here's why.

The Bureau has advised athletes to leave their personal devices behind during the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Published onFebruary 1, 2022

motorola moto g pure headphone in hand ear
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
  • The FBI is urging athletes participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics to leave their personal phones at home.
  • The agency has advised participants to carry burner phones instead.
  • Large-scale cyber attacks are expected to disrupt the event.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned against massive cyberattacks during the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics. The agency is urging athletes and other participants to leave their personal phones and other devices behind and use burner phones instead to protect themselves against potential cyber threats and data thefts.

“The FBI urges all athletes to keep their personal cell phones at home and use a temporary phone while at the Games. The National Olympic Committees in some Western countries are also advising their athletes to leave personal devices at home or use temporary phones due to cybersecurity concerns at the Games,” the Bureau noted in a notice released on Monday (h/t ZDNet).

The warning seems justifiable seeing that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were bombarded with cyber incidents. The FBI notes that NTT Corporation, the official service provider for the event, clocked more than 450 million attempted cybersecurity breaches, though none were successful.

The cybersecurity struggle during the Tokyo Olympics was similar to Harry Potter's final fight against Voldemort.

According to the agency, the most popular attack methods include malware, email spoofing, phishing, and the use of fake websites and streaming services. However, mobile apps and digital wallets that track COVID-19 vaccination status could also allow cyber actors to steal personal information or install tracking tools, malicious code, or malware.

NTT officials told ZDNet in October that the company’s cybersecurity struggle during the Tokyo Olympics was similar to Harry Potter’s final fight against Voldemort, calling the effort to protect the event “Herculean.”

So if you’re one of those headed to the Winter Olympics, you might want to get a second phone and make sure you follow best online practices to keep your data safe. While the FBI is currently not aware of any specific cyber threats against the Olympics, it’s encouraging partners to remain vigilant.

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