Beijing (AP) — Warning for using disposable “burner” phones and laptops. Privacy protection software. Concerns about the security of the official smartphone app for the game.
Such precautions have fueled concerns about the data privacy of athletes and participants at the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Not everyone pays attention to them.
“Honestly, I’ve been in China for 12 years or so, and I’m not that important,” said Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris. “Maybe if I was a diplomat or something, I would hang up.”
Malicious cyber activity is the flash point of geopolitical competition between China and the West. Beijing has long been accused of widespread online snooping and data theft by the US and tech guard dogs.
With the end of the tournament and about 16,000 athletes, organizers, journalists and other visitors returning home, there are concerns about what malware and other problems people who didn’t pay attention to were having. increase.
Good news: Cybersecurity firm Mandiant said there were no signs of “invasion” related to the Olympics by China and other governments.
But that shouldn’t be seen as a sign that nothing happened, said Benjamin Reed, director of Mandiant’s cyber-spy analysis.
“Most breaches are detected weeks or months after they occur, so it’s too early to confirm that there were no incidents,” he said.
He also said that electronic monitoring is of paramount importance when visitors are in China and may not continue when they return home.
He advised anyone who traveled to China for the Winter Olympics to change their password when they returned to prevent unknown devices and services from accessing their accounts.
“It’s not always possible to know if a device is at risk, so it’s best to take all precautions,” he said.
Free internet access is important for many amateur Olympic athletes who post photos and videos of their feats on Instagram and other social media sites. It can be important for landing sponsors.
“I’m definitely on my phone. Canadian snowboarder Laurie Blouin said,” I’m eating grams. ”
McMorris said he uses his iPhone to stream TV shows, exchange chat messages, and post to Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
And Eileen Gu, a sensation of Chinese freestyle skiing born in the United States, has posted many times on Instagram since the game started.
When users ask why they could use an app that is blocked in China, Gu says “anyone can download a VPN,” that is, a virtual private network that scrambles communications so that others can’t read them. I answered. Receiver.
Posts that disappeared later sparked online protests over Internet freedom. This is partly due to the fact that VPNs are no longer available in Chinese app stores after authorities crack down on the use of VPNs.
Some US athletes said they are using a VPN. It can be used to tunnel China’s so-called “Great Firewall,” a censorship system that blocks websites, services, and apps that are deemed inappropriate by the authorities.
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee has informed athletes that everything they do online while in China will be monitored. The Canadian Olympic Committee has warned that there is a possibility of cybercrime.
However, although there were no specific details about the threat, experts said it was unlikely to be competitive in the game.
“The Chinese government isn’t interested in the average snowboarder,” said Greg Austin, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“They are interested in the potential for snowboarders to become politicians or influential leaders by collecting all the data they have and putting it in a database,” Austin said. I am saying.
He added that it was not uncommon for intelligence agencies in any country.
According to Austin, Beijing was also likely to have monitored politically sensitive things in the communication of Olympic visitors, such as contact with dissidents.
Journalists are arguably more juicy targets than athletes, and many have also brought burner devices.
The International Olympic Committee said cybersecurity is “an important aspect of hosting the Games” but will not comment further to maintain safe operation.
Anyway, some of the precautionary participants were looking forward to resuming their daily meals on streaming and social media.
Mariah Bell, a US figure skater, was given a burner phone, but was away from social media and Netflix. “Both amazing and boring,” she said.
“I’m really looking forward to going home and seeing my dog. Meet my family and sit back on Instagram for hours,” she said.
Associated Press writer Aaron Morrison contributed to this report. AP business writer Kelvin Chan writes about London technology and tells stories of various Olympic games in Beijing. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/chanman.
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