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US officials warn against bringing phones to Russia for the World Cup

If you have to bring a smartphone to the World Cup in Russia, it might be best to use a cheap burner phone while you are there.

Published onJune 13, 2018

FIFA World Cup Russia
  • U.S. officials warned the public against taking their personal and business devices to Russia for the World Cup.
  • Officials say hackers and the Russian government could try and compromise devices.
  • The FIFA World Cup takes place in Russia from June 14 to July 15.

Taking place every four years, the FIFA World Cup is one of those exciting times when countries come together for the thrill of sport. It might also be a time when hackers lick their chops and compromise fans’ electronic devices, warned the top U.S. counterintelligence official.

In a statement sent to Reuters, FBI agent and U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center director William Evanina warned World Cup travelers to not bring their devices to Russia. He argued that no one is too insignificant to be a target, with cyber criminals or the Russian government picking and choosing at will.

“Corporate and government officials are most at risk, but don’t assume you’re too insignificant to be targeted,” said Evanina. “If you can do without the device, don’t take it. If you must take one, take a different device from your usual one and remove the battery when not in use.”

British security agencies reportedly echoed the warning to British citizens and the England football team. A branch of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) handled the public warning, while Britain’s National Cyber Security Center is “providing expert cyber security advice” to U.K.’s Football Association.

The U.S. issued similar warnings for previous international events, such as the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but this warning is more poignant than others. The U.S. and Russia currently have a frosty relationship, with the former still figuring out whether the latter intervened during the 2016 presidential election.

While the two countries continue to sort out their beef with each other, World Cup travelers would be wise to use burner devices. These are devices that contain no personal information and are thrown away after use, so it does not matter if they get hacked.

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