At Olympics, cybersecurity concerns linger in background | WGN Radio 720

BEIJING (AP) — Warnings to use disposable “burner” telephones and laptops. Privacy-safeguarding application. Considerations about a security flawin an official Games smartphone app.

This sort of precautions fueled unease about details privateness for opponents and attendees at the Winter season Olympics in Beijing. Not absolutely everyone heeded them.

“Honestly, I’ve been coming to China for 12 many years or whatever, and I’m not that important,” Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris claimed. “Maybe if I was a diplomat or some thing, then I’d switch out my phone.”

Nefarious cyber action is a flashpoint in the geopolitical rivalry concerning China and the West. Beijing has very long been accused by the U.S. and technology watchdogs of popular on the web snooping and information pilfering, allegations it denies.

Now that the Game titles are ending, and some 16,000 athletes, organizers, journalists and other people are heading residence, worries transform to what malware and other difficulties people who failed to heed the warnings may possibly be carrying with them.

The good news: Cybersecurity company Mandiant mentioned there is been no sign of any “intrusion activity” tied to the Olympics by the Chinese or other governments.

But that shouldn’t be taken as a signal that very little transpired, stated Benjamin Read, Mandiant’s director of cyber espionage assessment.

“Most compromises are detected weeks or months right after they come about, so it is also early to say for absolutely sure that there were no incidents,” he said.

It is also possible that the electronic surveillance was most essential when guests were being in China, and wouldn’t proceed when people folks went residence, he mentioned.

He encouraged any person who travelled to China for the Winter Video games to change their passwords when they get again and make positive that no not known devices or companies have entry to their accounts.

“It’s not generally possible to know if a system has been compromised so it is most effective to acquire every single precaution,” he stated.

Unfettered net access is important for several newbie Olympic athletes who post photographs and films of their feats on Instagram and other social media websites. It can be vital for landing sponsors.

“I’m on my mobile phone for sure. I consider we’re all on our phones,” mentioned Canadian snowboarder Laurie Blouin, who stated she was “feeding the ’Grams.”

McMorris explained he was making use of his Apple iphone to stream Television displays, trade chat messages and submit on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

And U.S.-born Chinese freestyle snowboarding sensation Eileen Gu has posted numerous occasions on Instagram considering the fact that the Games commenced.

When a person asked why she was capable to use the application, which is blocked in China, Gu responded that “anyone can obtain a vpn,” or virtual non-public community, software package that scrambles communications so it just cannot be study by anyone apart from the receiver.

The posts, which later disappeared, sparked an on line outcry in excess of online freedom, in part simply because VPNs aren’t out there in Chinese app suppliers after authorities cracked downon their use.

Some U.S. athletes reported they ended up also working with VPNs, which can be used to tunnel by China’s so-referred to as “Great Firewall” a censorship program which blocks web-sites, expert services and apps considered inappropriate by authorities.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee experienced advised athletes that something they do on the web while in China would be monitored. The Canadian Olympic Committee warned there was the likely for cybercrimes.

But even though there weren’t unique specifics about threats, specialists said it most likely wasn’t about acquiring a competitive edge at the online games.

“The Chinese govt is not fascinated in the normal snowboarder,” said Greg Austin, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Scientific studies.

“They are interested in accumulating whatsoever information they have and putting it into a databases on the prospect that the snowboarder would develop into a politician or a leader in a posture of affect,” Austin explained.

He added that it’s not unheard of follow for intelligence expert services of any country.

Beijing was also likely monitoring for just about anything politically sensitive in Olympic visitors’ communications, this kind of as get in touch with with dissidents, Austin stated.

Journalists ended up arguably a juicier focus on than athletes, and a lot of also brought burner gadgets.

The Intercontinental Olympic Committee said cybersecurity is “an crucial element of hosting the Games” but that in buy to keep safe functions, it would not comment further.

At any level, some contributors who did just take safety measures have been looking ahead to resuming their every day diet regime of streaming and social media.

U.S. figure skater Mariah Bell was provided a burner phone but had been staying off social media and Netflix, which she reported was “both astounding and boring.”

“I’m pretty psyched to go residence see my dog,” she said, “see my relatives, go back to sitting down on Instagram for several hours.”


Affiliated Press writer Aaron Morrison contributed to this report. AP Small business Author Kelvin Chan writes about engineering from London and is masking a range of Olympic stories in Beijing. Abide by him on Twitter at