Olympic Athletes Urged by the FBI to Use Burner Phones in China

Warning them of unspecified malicious cyber activities that could take place in China, the FBI has urged American athletes taking part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games to leave their personal phones in the US and use a temporary phone while at the Games.

The FBI warned the athletes in a notice on Monday that although it’s not aware of any specific cyber threat against the Olympics, there are vague cyber actors that could disrupt the Games with a broad range of cyber activities, including compromising mobile devices, so it urged them to take burner phones to Beijing.

A similar warning to the athletes over potential Chinese surveillance was previously issued by the British, Australian, Dutch, and the Canadian Olympic Committees.

US athletes in Beijing would be encouraged to use burner phones by the Team USA since just like with computers, the cell phones’ data and applications are subject to malicious intrusion and data compromise.

FBI’s warning comes amid rising concerns and public warning from the US national security officials that Beijing has created an advanced techno-surveillance state blanketed by cameras, facial recognition, and other technology.

These warnings only added to the narrative of Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft scenarios the intelligence officials have been presenting for years now continuously warning US state and local officials, business people, and academia members who travel to China of the risk of having their personal devices hacked.

According to FBI Director Chris Wray, the agency has opened over 2,000 counterintelligence investigations into alleged Chinese efforts to steal US information or technology.

Citing human rights concerns in China, the Biden administration, and its allies, such as the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Canada, among others, have announced conducting a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games though their athletes will still compete.

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