The United States counterintelligence chief has cautioned FIFA World Cup 2018 attendees planning to travel to Russia for the sports event against bringing their main devices with them due to potential hacking threats in the country. The warning was issued by William Evanina, an agent of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center. The potential hacking could be perpetrated by either cybercriminals or the Russian government, according to a statement Evanina provided to Reuters.
The nation's senior counterintelligence official said any hacking attempts would most likely be targeted at corporate and government officials, though he went on to say that nobody is too insignificant to be a victim. Evanina added that those traveling to the 2018 FIFA World Cup may bring with them a device different from the one they regularly use and remove its battery when not actively engaging with it. Britain’s National Cyber Security Center also issued the same warning to the UK Football Association and British citizens going to the event.
The advisory comes at a time when both lawmakers and intelligence officials in the United States are still investigating the alleged involvement of Russia in influencing the results of the 2016 presidential election using digital means. It is understood that state-sponsored actors from Russia used other means to try to sway the poll results, including online ads. Last October, Google said that a number of Russian agents purchased online ads worth under $100,000 that were served on a range of its services such as YouTube, Gmail, and Search, with the broader goal of the alleged Russian-backed ads being to influence the outcome of the presidential election through online propaganda based on false information. Last September, Facebook, Google, and Twitter were also called to testify in front of the United States Congress on the 2016 presidential election and any possible interference caused by Russian operatives. Special Counsel Robert Mueller so far indicted more than a dozen Russian individuals and three entities from the country over their roles in the ordeal.