FBI tells Olympic athletes to use burner phones in Beijing


The US intelligence agency claimed American athletes could fall victim to “malicious cyber activities”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned American athletes taking part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games to leave their phones in the US, claiming that unspecified “malicious cyber activities” could take place in China.

In a notice on Monday, the FBI told athletes that vague “cyber actors” could “use a broad range of cyber activities to disrupt” the Olympic Games, including activities which could compromise mobile devices.

“The FBI urges all athletes to keep their personal cell phones at home and use a temporary phone while at the Games,” the agency said, while acknowledging that it was “not aware of any specific cyber threat against the Olympics.”

The FBI is not the first institution to advise athletes to take burner phones to Beijing. The US, British, Australian, Dutch, and Canadian Olympic Committees have all issued warnings to their athletes over potential “Chinese surveillance.”

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The Winter Olympics take place in February 2022 © Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
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Team USA said burner phones would be encouraged for athletes in Beijing, as, “like computers, the data and applications on cell phones are subject to malicious intrusion, infection and data compromise.”

Though their athletes will still compete, the US and its allies – including the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan, among others – are conducting a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, citing human rights concerns in China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Washington to “stop interfering in the Beijing Winter Olympics” last week, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has accused the US of violating the “political neutrality of sport” with its diplomatic boycott.

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