FIFA World Cup 2018: Western Agencies Warn Against Russian Hacking

Off-field tensions are ratcheting up as the 21st FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday, 14 June. Intelligence agencies from both the US and UK have sounded a note of caution to intrepid football fans journeying to Russia for the football extravaganza.

Being held in 11 cities across the European part of Russia, the 2018 tournament is seen as an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to showcase his proud country, and stakes are very high to pull off the World Cup without a significant hitch.

The venue cities each have one stadium that will host games, except for capital Moscow with two

However, diplomatic episodes involving the host country in recent times have led to European fans being reticent about buying tickets for the World Cup. The incident involving the alleged poisoning of spy Sergei Skripal by the Russian government has led to mutual expulsion of diplomats from both the UK and Russia.

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This strain is now compounded by a top US official issuing an advisory to American fans travelling to the World Cup. William Evanina, an FBI agent and the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, cautioned people to be aware of cyber security threats.

"If you’re planning on taking a mobile phone, laptop, PDA, or other electronic device with you - make no mistake - any data on those devices (especially your personally identifiable information) may be accessed by the Russian government or cyber criminals" - William Evanina, FBI agent, to Reuters

Evanina’s warning is especially pertinent because the US residents represent the largest travelling bloc, with 80,161 tickets purchased.

Other advice in his conversation included carrying the least amount of technological products possible with personal information and removing their battery when not in use

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Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has stated it is providing expert advice to the UK Football Association ahead of the World Cup. The agency has also warned the public to secure their data before travelling and not commit a “cyber security own goal”.

"Don’t assume you’re too insignificant to be targeted" - William Evanina

For complete FIFA World Cup 2018 coverage, click here to visit our special WC page.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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