Fearful of Russian hackers, English football chiefs tell team to avoid free Wi-Fi at World Cup
The English Football Association (FA) has advised players and team staff not to use public Wi-Fi while visiting Russia for next year’s World Cup, AP reported.
The FA also requested advice from FIFA, world football's governing body, on how to defend against cyberattacks during the trip.
The use of Russian public Wi-Fi networks to transmit sensitive personal and team information could result in it being illegally obtained by third parties, the FA told English squad members, coaches and technical staff, Associated Press reported citing an anonymous source with knowledge of the World Cup planning.
The report was not clear on whether the FA suspected that the Russian government may try to steal the team’s game plans to undermine their game or was concerned about possible theft of banking information or identity – crimes usually associated with malicious free Wi-Fi networks.
In fact, most cybersecurity guidelines for travelers, like this one by the Canadian government, suggest avoiding public Wi-Fi networks due to their lack of security.
AP also said the FA asked for advice on cybersecurity during the World Cup in Russia from FIFA, citing the leak last month of FIFA documents, including the emails in which the world football governing body discussed doping cases with the English association.
The leak was attributed to the group dubbed Fancy Bears, which some media and cybersecurity experts claim to be a front for the Russian government. Russia denies such a connection exists.
The ‘digital fingerprints’ used to establish the alleged link may well be forged, according to a WikiLeaks investigation, into an arsenal of CIA cyber tools.
FIFA had informed the FA that the investigation into the leak was underway, in particular “to ascertain whether FIFA’s infrastructure was compromised.”
“For the purposes of computer security in general, FIFA is itself relying on expert advice from third parties,” the organization said in a statement on Monday. “It is for this reason that FIFA cannot and does not provide any computer security advice to third parties.”
Apparently Russian hackers, popular bogeyman figures for the Western media in general, may replace the notorious Russian football hooligans as the main reported threat for the English team during the World Cup in Russia.
The hooligans, according to some British tabloids, were training relentlessly to quash visiting Britons during the Confederations Cup earlier this year, but somehow failed to materialize.
So far there have been no media reports of other teams like Argentina or Brazil, who are viewed as more likely to win the 2018 tournament, taking special precautions against Russian hackers.