Say you're going to Sochi for the Winter Olympics. You've magically found a hotel that's actually complete and not full of trash and construction equipment. Crisis averted, right? Not quite—because as NBC Nightly News' experiment shows, your computer or smartphone could be hacked in seconds in Sochi. Hackers will be going after your computer or smartphone from the minute you land.
Yes, as NBC's Richard Engel shows in this Nightly News segment, devices he brought to Sochi were hacked within mere moments of connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. They were decoys, of course, loaded with bogus information. But it wasn't just a one-time fluke—every device Engel brought was seemingly hacked.
Now, to be fair, public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously dangerous; that's true in every village around the world, Olympic or otherwise. But it's just the latest in a whole slew of increasingly bad news coming out of Russia as we draw ever-closer to the Opening Ceremonies. Compounding the problem is Russia's reputation as being home to some of the most prolific hackers. You'd think, with all the world watching, Russia would do something to try not to live up to that bad rap.
Of course, whether you're traveling to Sochi or Scranton, there are things you should absolutely do to keep your data safe when using public networks. But if you do happen to be heading to the Olympics, maybe keep your internet and smartphone use to an absolute minimum. Otherwise, you're putting your data out there to be grabbed by some gold-medal hackers. [NBC]
Update: As reader MalMeninga points out, NBC did a few questionable things in filing this report—namely, initiating download of an unknown .apk file on the smartphone, and neglecting to download updates on their fresh-out-of-box laptops, as The Register reports. That certainly upped their chances of being hacked. Still, those are the kinds of things unsavvy tech users do, and unsecured public Wi-Fi is still plenty risky.
Image: Shutterstock / Benoit Daoust