FBI says cyber actors could ‘disrupt’ Beijing Olympics, Paralympics

FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Greg Nash

The FBI’s cyber division warned in a private industry notification dated Monday that cyber actors could “disrupt” the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics set to start on Friday, in addition to next month’s Paralympics.

“The FBI is warning entities associated with the February 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and March 2022 Paralympics that cyber actors could use a broad range of cyber activities to disrupt these events,” the agency said.

The FBI noted that some of those activities could include ransomware, phishing campaigns, malware and distributed denial of service attacks, among other actions. 

The agency also warned against installing apps made by “untrusted vendors,” which “could increase the opportunity for cyber actors to steal personal information or install tracking tools, malicious code, or malware.”

The FBI noted it was not aware of any specific cyberattacks that were planning on being carried out but emphasized that athletes and others associated with the Games should remain vigilant, including by recommending that people leave their personal devices at home and use a temporary phone while in China.

The agency pointed to previous cyberattacks that were carried out during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

“For example, during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the NTT Corporation––which provided its services for the Tokyo Olympic & Paralympic Games––revealed there were more than 450 million attempted cyber-related incidents during the event, though none were successful due to cybersecurity measures in place,” the agency said.

“During the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Russian cyber actors conducted a destructive cyber attack against the opening ceremony, enabled through spearphishing campaigns and malicious mobile applications,” the FBI added.

The FBI noted that these upcoming Games could be vulnerable to cyberattacks because people will be more reliant on social media and streaming services to watch the Olympics, as foreign spectators are not allowed to attend.

Cyberattacks could be waged against broadcast companies and internet service providers to impact service during the Games; broadcasting networks could be disrupted by phishing campaigns and social engineering; and certain types of infrastructure like hotels and ticketing services could also be impacted by cyberattacks, the FBI said.

The advisory comes just days before the start of the Winter Games, which several nations, including the United States, are diplomatically boycotting in response to human rights concerns. The Games are set to last until Feb. 20.

Tags 2022 Beijing Olympics cybersecurity FBI

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