In a letter to FIFA, the Football Association has said that it fears England footballers and other staff could be targeted by Russian hackers prior to and during the Football World Cup in Russia next year.
Russian hackers had previously released details of 25 footballers who were allowed to use potentially performance-enhancing drugs during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Even though the exact contents of the FA’s email to FIFA aren’t available, the FIFA has confirmed, via a press statement, that it was contacted by the Football Association in relation to last month’s cyber-attack conducted by Fancy Bears, a particularly determined Russian hacker group which is also linked to several cyber-attacks targeting political parties across Europe.
“In its reply, FIFA has informed the FA that it remains committed to preventing security attacks in general and that with respect to the Fancy Bears attack in particular it is presently investigating the incident to ascertain whether FIFA’s infrastructure was compromised,” said a FIFA spokesperson.
“Such investigation is still ongoing. For the purposes of computer security in general, FIFA is itself relying on expert advice from third parties. It is for this reason that FIFA cannot and does not provide any computer security advice to third parties,” the spokesperson added.
Last month, Fancy Bears hacked into the World Anti-Doping Agency’s databases and released details of 150 athletes who were caught by WADA in 2015 for using banned substances. Nine such players were caught by UK Anti-Doping for using drugs like cocaine, amfetamine, salbutamol in excess quantity and other stimulants.
Following the breach, Fancy Bears claimed that it had exposed WADA’s claims on the football world being completely free of doping. According to experts, the WADA database hack was in retaliation to an ongoing investigation conducted by the FIFA on the alleged use of banned substances by the Russian national football team.
The group also revealed that as many as 25 footballers were allowed to use potentially performance-enhancing drugs during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. These footballers included Argentinians Carlos Tevez, Juan Veron, and Gabriel Heinze, German footballers Mario Gomez, Christian Trasch and Hans-Jörg Butt, Italian footballers Mauro Camoranesi and Vicenzo Iaquinta, and Dutch footballer Dirk Kuyt.
Following the breach, the FA had expressed ‘disappointment’ with the disclosure, stating that it was inappropriate to publish information relating to personal medical conditions or medications taken by footballers. The organisation is now worried that the England football team and other staff would be targeted by cyber criminals during the FIFA World Cup in Russia next year.
In line with its concerns, the FA has advised footballers and other staff not to connect their devices to public Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure their security and privacy. At the same time, the FA has decided that it will strengthen firewalls and encrypt passwords prior to the World Cup to ensure hackers do not get their hands on sensitive tactical information.