News / Science & Technology

Hackers Threaten Brazil's World Cup

FILE- A policeman observes a screen displaying the Maracana stadium during a media tour at the security center for the 2014 soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Jan. 22, 2014.
FILE- A policeman observes a screen displaying the Maracana stadium during a media tour at the security center for the 2014 soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Jan. 22, 2014.
Reuters
Brazilian hackers are threatening to disrupt the World Cup with attacks ranging from jamming websites to data theft, adding cyber warfare to the list of challenges for a competition already marred by protests, delays and overspending.

In a country with rampant online crime, a challenging telecommunications infrastructure and little experience with cyber attacks, authorities are rushing to protect government websites and those of FIFA, soccer's governing body.

Furious about the 33 billion reais ($14 billion) in federal funds being spent on World Cup preparations, more than a million Brazilians took to the streets last June in a wave of mass demonstrations, calling for better public services, greater transparency, and a crackdown on corruption.Now, hackers say they will join the fray.

"We are already making plans," said an alleged hacker who goes by the nom de guerre of Eduarda Dioratto. "I don't think there is much they can do to stop us."

Reuters contacted Dioratto and other self-proclaimed members of the international hacker network known as Anonymous by finding them online.

Though unable to confirm their true identities, Reuters spoke with them in the interest of understanding their threats and what impact they might have on the World Cup.

They said the event offers an unprecedented global audience and an opportune moment to target sites operated by FIFA, the government, other organizers or corporate sponsors.

"The attacks will be directed against official websites and those of companies sponsoring the Cup," a hacker known as Che Commodore said in a late-night Skype conversation.

General view of the interior of Arena da Baixada soccer stadium as it is being built to host matches of the 2014 World Cup in Curitiba, Brazil, Feb. 17, 2014.General view of the interior of Arena da Baixada soccer stadium as it is being built to host matches of the 2014 World Cup in Curitiba, Brazil, Feb. 17, 2014.
x
General view of the interior of Arena da Baixada soccer stadium as it is being built to host matches of the 2014 World Cup in Curitiba, Brazil, Feb. 17, 2014.
General view of the interior of Arena da Baixada soccer stadium as it is being built to host matches of the 2014 World Cup in Curitiba, Brazil, Feb. 17, 2014.
While most of the fretting ahead of the tournament is focused on the completion of stadiums by kickoff on June 1, experts agree that little attention is being paid to Brazil's telecommunications infrastructure.

Problems include overstrained networks, widespread use of pirated software and low investment in online security. To make matters worse, Brazil is home to one of the world's most sophisticated cyber-criminal communities, which is already disrupting ticket sales and other World Cup commerce.

"It's not a question of whether the Cup will be targeted, but when," said William Beer, a cybersecurity expert with the consultancy firm Alvarez & Marsal. "So resilience and response become extremely important."

Brazil says it is ready, or as ready as it can be.

"It would be reckless for any nation to say it's 100 percent prepared for a threat," said General José Carlos dos Santos, the head of the cyber command for Brazil's army. "But Brazil is prepared to respond to the most likely cyber threats."

A FIFA spokesperson declined to comment on online security.

Fast, Damaging and Simple

Known internationally for their high-profile attacks against the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Sony and even the Vatican, Anonymous flexed its muscle in Brazil in 2012 when it disabled the websites of some of the country's biggest banks, including Banco do Brasil, Itaú Unibanco  and Bradesco.

During that attack, dubbed #OpWeekPayment by the hackers, they launched denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, in which thousands of computers simultaneously access target websites, jamming them. The method would be their preferred weapon this time, too.

"It's fast, damaging and relatively simple to carry out," explained Che Commodore.

With that in mind the army created a Cyber Defense Center, which leads a multi-agency task force for the Cup. Besides DDoS attacks, they may also face website defacement and data theft.

The worst-case scenario would be an attack sophisticated enough to cripple Brazil's power grid, communications or air-traffic control systems. But General dos Santos said in a recent interview that authorities aren't expecting anything that bad.

"The probability for that is much lower," he said.

For their part, the Anonymous members said they would not do anything to target the Brazilian people. The government and event organizers, however, are another matter.

And despite the government's preparations, the hackers say they are fully up to speed, and not terribly impressed by what they see as meager defenses.

"It's nothing out of this world", said an activist called Bile Day. "Security remains very low."

Indeed, security experts said Brazil could be caught ill-prepared. The country, with no geopolitical enemies, is not used to being on guard and, as such, may not even be aware of the extent of its vulnerabilities.

"Brazil is a big target, it's neutral and has a challenging infrastructure," said Marcos Oliveira, an executive with U.S. network security firm Blue Coat. "It's the perfect storm.

"Aside from the banks, which now invest heavily in online security, Brazilian companies pay little attention to the problem. And more than half of Brazil's computers run pirate software, which makes them more vulnerable to a denial-of-service attack.

Growing Breaches

Brazil is not entirely untested.

The government grew far more sensitive to cybersecurity issues last year after reports that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on President Dilma Rousseff and millions of ordinary Brazilians.

Officials have also tracked a growing number of online security breaches during other big events in recent years. In 2012, during a United Nations conference on climate change in Rio de Janeiro, the cyber command detected 140 attempted security breaches.

Attacks climbed to more than 300 for last year's Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup.

"We expect that number to be much higher for the Cup," said General Dos Santos.

And they will likely increase once again when Rio hosts the 2016 Olympics.

ATOS, a French company in charge of information technology networks for the Rio Olympics, said it detected around 255 million security events during London 2010.

"It's huge," said Michele Hyron, who heads the ATOS team for the Rio games. "And it had absolutely no impact on the Games.

"Problems can occur ahead of the events, though, especially in a country with fast-growing Internet access and booming online banking services, but little regulation for either.

Seeking to capitalize on the massive demand for World Cup tickets, criminals are already finding ways to steal from would-be buyers online.

Most of the attacks are so called "phishing," where users are redirected to fake sites of banks and firms and tricked into entering their credit card data. Online security firm Kaspersky said it is blocking between 40 and 50 fraudulent sites using the theme of the Cup daily.

"The World Cup is the theme of the moment," said Fabio Assolini, a security analyst with Kaspersky in São Paulo, "and cyber criminals are taking full advantage of that."

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs