Industry News

Six ways hackers are aiming for gold at the Rio Olympics

As the major sports event of the year, the 2016 Rio Olympics is driving interest of huge crowds and hackers make no exception. They are racing to outsmart the millions of digitally-enabled users present at the event, targeting them with classic, yet effective fraudulent schemes meant to ruin their finances and good time.

Phishing on Olympics-themed Facebook pages

According to security researchers, potentially malicious content has increased by 60% on social networks, with more than 1300 fraudulent accounts trying to steal users’ credentials through phishing scams, by selling fake tickets or offering illegal streaming of the event.

Counterfeit Wi-Fi hotspots

A number of suspicious Wi-Fi networks have been spotted around the city capital of Brazil. Pubs, coffee shops and even the Rio Galeão Airport, the international hub for the Olympics, are hosting Wi-Fi networks able to decrypt SSL traffic, exposing users’ traffic and thus, sensitive data, according to news reports.

Read more about the top 5 Wi-Fi locations where your data may be at risk.

Rogue mobile apps

Hackers have also created malicious apps to steal information and take control of mobile devices. Over 4,000 Android apps and over 500 iOS apps related to the Olympics were found to exhibit risky or malicious behavior, researchers warn. One such app claims to offer updates on the evolution of the games, but in fact, spies on people’s social media activity, reads data from other mobile-connected devices and sends it to third-parties.

Crashing websites

Celebrity Olympians are also targeted. Michael Phelps’s site was taken down by hackers, just hours after the swimmer won a record 19th Olympic gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay in Rio de Janeiro. The New World hacking group claimed responsibility for the DDoS attack, saying it wanted to “show how celebrities’ websites lack security measures”.


Fake boarding passes

To get to a highly-desired event, people would do just about anything, including creating an app that generates fake boarding passes. This mobile app provides privileged access to the elite lounges of airlines and bypasses no-fly lists. Fortunately, the application is not publicly available, its creator, Przemek Jaroszewski, reassures.

ATM skimming

Last week, a reporter for a North Carolina newspaper said that his card was hacked immediately after using it at the gift shop in Brazil. Two McClatchy reporters also said their cards had been hacked and cloned soon after their arrival. Leila Lak, a British documentary filmmaker who works in Rio, has been hacked repeatedly.


“Mine has been cloned several times, and my bank (in London) told me it’s very common in Brazil. They expect it,” Lak said in a telephone interview, adding that she had been hacked just three weeks ago.

Hacking is a serious problem in Brazil – the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued a warning about it on its website.

Brazil continues to rank as one of the most pervasive cybercrime environments worldwide,” the department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council says. “Brazilian cybercriminals have grown more brazen, stealing billions of dollars annually despite new legislation and official efforts to stop malicious activity online. The use of credit card cloning devices and radio frequency interception (RFI) at restaurants, bars and public areas is epidemic in Rio”.

The US government launched a multimedia campaign to educate travelers on how to stay safe when travelling. Here are some of the most important security tips:

  • Leave unnecessary devices at home.
  • Back up data on devices in use and leave those copies in secure locations at home.
  • Change passwords at regular intervals during travel and on return.
  • Avoid prolonged sessions on local Wi-Fi networks.
  • Submit company devices for examination on return for presence of malware.

About the author

Alexandra GHEORGHE

Alexandra started writing about IT at the dawn of the decade - when an iPad was an eye-injury patch, we were minus Google+ and we all had Jobs. She has since wielded her background in PR and marketing communications to translate binary code to colorful stories that have been known to wear out readers' mouse scrolls. Alexandra is also a social media enthusiast who 'likes' only what she likes and LOLs only when she laughs out loud.