Being a reporter at the Sochi Olympic Games just got even worse.
NBC News’ Richard Engel said that upon arriving in Russia to cover the upcoming event, he was hacked “almost immediately” — and privacy is not something visitors should expect to have.
“It doesn’t take long here for someone to try to tap into your laptop, cellphone or tablet,” he said Tuesday night.
Engel decided to test Russia’s privacy system with the help of American computer security expert Kyle Wilhoit, who set him up with two brand new computers and a phony identity, with fake names and addresses. When Engel connected them to the Internet in Sochi, he said he quickly received a suspicious email and was shocked when his computer was hijacked immediately after opening the email.
“In a minute, hackers were snooping around,” he said. “The same thing happened with my cellphone — it was very fast and very professional.”
Within 24 hours, both of Engel’s computers and his cell phone had been invaded, giving hackers the ability to tap and record phone calls. Brian Williams reported Tuesday night that “visitors of Russia can expect to be hacked”– and it’s not just reporters.
“The State Department warns that travelers should have no expectation of privacy,” Engel told Williams on NBC’s “Nightly News.” “Even in their hotel rooms. And as we found out, you are especially exposed as soon as you try and communicate with anything.”
Sochi Security: Warning of Cyber Attacks as Hackers Target Games
Cyber attacks could be launched on “any company that finances or supports” the Sochi Olympics, U.S. security officials warned Wednesday as hackers targeted Internet sites related to the Russian games.
A security bulletin issued by the Homeland Security Department’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team warned that the winter games could be used by “hacktivists” seeking to “take advantage of the large audience to spread their own message.”
It cites one such group, Anonymous Caucasus, which claims “the Sochi games infrastructure was built on the graves of 1 million innocent Caucasians who were murdered by the Russians in 1864,” according to the Homeland Security bulletin.
Anyone attending the games “will likely” have their communications monitored, the bulletin warned, and cyber criminals may use the games as a way to spread malware or phishing scams to sports audiences around the world.
The alert came as a denial of service attack was launched on Internet sites related to the games, knocking Russia’s national games committee offline Wednesday.
Anonymous Caucasus announced on Twitter that it had called on its members to take action against Sochi-related sites, using the hashtags #paybackforsochi and #opsochi.