Investigators Warn FIFA World Cup Could Be Hotbed For Espionage

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar is gearing up to be a hot spot for governments to spy on their adversaries, researchers and officials warned this week.

Driving the news: Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future published a report on Thursday warning that state-sponsored hacking groups are likely to view the World Cup as a “target-rich environment” to spy on foreign dignitaries and businessmen.

  • European data protection regulators have been advising their constituents not to download Qatar World Cup apps due to surveillance and national security concerns.
  • German authorities said one of the apps “collects data on whether a phone call is made and with which number,” Politico reports.

The panorama: International sporting events have become a hotbed for cyber-espionage campaigns, putting governments on high alert for unwanted surveillance.

  • The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee advised Team USA to use disposable phones while in Beijing for this year’s Winter Olympics due to similar concerns, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Between lines: Recorded Future researchers said digital spies linked to China and Iran are the most likely to carry out spying campaigns targeting the tournament.

  • Iranian spy groups have a history of spying on other Middle Eastern governments.

the intrigue: Russia is the nation most likely to launch a disruptive attack against the World Cup in retaliation for FIFA’s blanket ban on Russian soccer clubs from competitions after the invasion of Ukraine, according to the report.

Be smart: The report advises World Cup attendees to use encrypted messaging apps, consider relying on a disposable phone and be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.

Sign up for the Axios Cybersecurity Newsletter Codebook here.

Leave a Comment