​How travelers and businesses can stay safe at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Graeme Pyper, Region Director, Australia and New Zealand, Gemalto

This year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro are sure to be one of the most interesting in history to attend – from the drama of whether Brazil will have things ready on time to the banning of certain Russian competitors – but with any major event, it also opens people up to the risk of falling victim to criminals.

Rio 2016 is looking to be the most connected Olympic and Paralympic Games to date, with millions of people bringing connected devices to the city. With foreign dignitaries, sporting stars and an enormous influx of tourists attending, thoughts of physical security are a chief concern. However, many are unaware of the risks posed to them online while at the Games from opportunistic and unscrupulous hackers.

Dropping the baton

Everyone is excited about arriving at a new destination and this will be even greater for those arriving on the cusp of a major international sporting event. However, this is where we can make our biggest mistakes. Naturally most of us will want to immediately check our mobile, laptop or tablet when landing in Rio, either to update family we are safe or brag about arriving to friends on social media. It’s at this point the integrity of the devices we are using and the information it contains can become compromised. Wi-Fi networks can be an easy target for hackers to exploit unsuspecting travelers. What tourists think is the hotel network, can easily be a fake network set up to fool unsuspecting people and gain access to their data. The ease of being able to do this was shown just recently when anti-virus firm Avast set up a fake Wi-Fi network at the Republican convention as an experiment.

This doesn’t just affect our personal lives, though. In the age where we’re using one device for personal and business, this can affect confidential corporate and company data for those that connect to unprotected or fake networks. Anyone travelling needs to realise it’s a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ a data breach occurs so the necessary steps must be put in place to protect ourselves. Only use secure Wi-Fi connections which need a password to be accessed like at hotels rather than free Wi-Fi that is usually unsecured. Accessing this via a Virtual Private Network is always preferred here as well. On top of this, use two-factor authentication tools that require two ways to confirm you are who you say you are. It may take one second longer, but prevention is better than the cure.

Another good starting tip would be to expect no privacy, wherever you may go in Rio. Even in your hotel room. That is likely to be the one spot where you spend a lot of time online. Big hotel chains, in particular, are easy targets for this reason alone for unscrupulous hackers looking to gain access to guests’ personal devices and accounts.

Hackers aiming to strike gold with businesses

It’s not just travelers that will be targeted at these Games either. Foreign companies coming across to do business during the event are as likely to suffer a breach if they do not have the right procedures in place due to the value of the data they house in their devices. Broadcasters will be a key target for hackers, as they look to disrupt live streaming of the events that take place. To ensure no disruption occurs, every event will need to be encrypted as the stream travels and decrypted to be shown live. Communication between multiple datacenters will also need to be encrypted to protect these high-value transmissions.

Organisations supplying information from the Games externally to organisations like media sites and news agencies, such as timings on races, are also under threat. Information integrity is key with these types of events and what happens if a timer is hacked, how can that data then be trusted and subsequently the winning time? If this were to happen the ramifications could be disastrous.

Top tips to protect yourself and your business

Both people and businesses are vulnerable when travelling and a trip to the greatest show of them all will be no different. In order to remain safe and vigilant whether it’s for work or pleasure, you need to follow the below tips:

1. Disable access to free Wi-Fi networks. Don’t trust any Wi-Fi unless it needs to be paid for. Connecting to a Wi-Fi spot without the necessary precautions is inviting yourself into trouble.

2. Turn off Bluetooth, which can be used to gain access to your mobile device.


3. Create a new email account that you can use just for the duration of your stay in Rio. (But do not use it to send any important messages.)

4. Create a digital identity on the internet for the duration of the Games, ensuring not to associate identities that you use normally and ensure your "temporary identity" you’ve created can’t be linked to your real identity.

5. When using social media, activate the two-factor authentication services that sites like Facebook and Twitter offer. This will give you that extra layer of security and ensure only you are able to access your accounts.

6. If you need to search for information online, try to use a public device in your hotel or when near a stadium. (And, of course, don’t check into personal email accounts or bank accounts on any public device!)

7. Make sure to update your software, operating system and security tools with the latest versions, which feature the latest security protocols and will protect your devices from vulnerabilities.

8. Use devices and infrastructure that employs the latest security techniques like encryption and two-factor authentication to protect the integrity of the data.

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Tags Rio Olympic GameshackersWiFi securityOlympicsmobileIT managementprivacycyber security

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