American athletes traveling to Beijing for the Winter Olympics may find themselves without the item of equipment they are most familiar with: their cell phone.
The U.S. Olympic Committee encourages the American team to use devices that can be disposed of or “burners” instead of bringing their own devices to China, because of the chance of spying on them during the games that begin on February 4.
The directive was included in an advisory document in September and in a leaflet sent in December. The leaflet states that you should be aware that “any device, call, transaction or activity on the Internet may be subject to surveillance. Your device (s) may also be compromised due to malware, which may adversely affect future use.”
The recommendation to use temporary devices shows how different the approach to these games is compared to previous competitions, with advice to athletes focusing on compliance with local laws and respect for cultural norms of foreign countries.
“The Olympics are a unique opportunity for cybercrime”
Using temporary phones may hinder athletes’ efforts to keep in touch with family and friends – who should not be by their side at games, due to a ban on spectators from foreign countries. It can also make it difficult for athletes to promote themselves and their accomplishments on social media, one of the most powerful tools they have in order to achieve and maintain sponsorship deals.
The U.S. is not the only country to have taken such an approach. The Canadian Olympic Committee also told athletes that “the Olympics are a unique opportunity for cybercrime and recommend that you be especially careful during competitions, including considering leaving private devices at home, limiting the amount of personal information stored on devices. To the competition complexes, and to practice careful cyber hygiene at all times. ”
The British Olympic Association and the Dutch Olympic Committee / Sports Federation of the Netherlands also advised members of the delegations of these countries to take increased precautions ahead of the Games in China.
The British Olympic Association has confirmed “that it has given athletes and teams practical advice so they can make their own choice, whether they are taking personal devices to the Games or not”. Athletes who do not want to take their private equipment will receive temporary devices.
The Dutch federation has also announced to participants that it will distribute such devices and then destroy them after participants return from China, the Dutch newspaper Volkstrant reported. The federation declined to comment directly on the report.
“Our main desire is to create the best environment in which our athletes will be able to deliver their best performance in safety and health circumstances and return home with achievements. For all this to be effective we think it is not worth making those circumstances publicly known,” said John van Wallit. , A Dutch speaker.
Senior officials at the U.S. International Olympic Committee declined to comment on the issue when he came up with technical briefings for journalists earlier this week.
It is no exception that national Olympic officials warn competitors from their countries of cyber dangers when traveling to the Games. With so many senior officials and celebrities gathered in one place, the Olympics are an attractive opportunity for hackers, no matter where the games are held.
But for many in the West, China poses an extraordinary threat. The Chinese government monitors its population extensively and as a routine procedure censors posts on social networks that are allegedly detrimental to its national interest.
In the meantime, another technological issue has been resolved that seems to be of particular concern to some Americans. U.S. political leaders have criticized the idea that Beijing Olympics organizers would require athletes to download or use Chinese digital money during games.
But in response this week to an email sent by the Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for the Beijing 2022 Games confirmed: “Athletes and other gamers will not be asked to download or use Chinese digital money (digital yuan) during the Games.”