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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More