Sochi Games Present Hacking Minefield

The U.S. State Department is warning Americans traveling to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, not to expect much in the way of privacy.

Specifically, the State Department says travelers should not expect privacy when using electronic devices because of the "System for Operative Investigative Activities," commonly known as "SORM," law.

That law, according to the State Department, "permits the monitoring, retention and analysis of all data that traverses Russian communications networks, including fax transmissions, telephone calls, internet browsing and e-mail messaging."

Russia is also a hotspot for criminal hackers who have proved very adept at stealing information from electronic devices.

"The Russian SORM, coupled with the Russian organized crime presence, one should expect that any electronic device usage will have little if any privacy, said Christopher Burgess, CEO of Prevendra, Inc., an Internet security firm. "I recommend visitors use throw-away cell phones for contact and do not engage in electronic banking. Your data is being shared."

The Olympic rings are cast in shadow as the sun sets behind the Bolshoy Ice Palace as preparations continue at the Olympic Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Feb. 3, 2014. /Reuters The Olympic rings are cast in shadow as the sun sets behind the Bolshoy Ice Palace as preparations continue at the Olympic Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Feb. 3, 2014. /Reuters

Last year, the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security advised travelers to "consider traveling with 'clean' electronic devices -- if you do not need the device, do not take it."

Furthermore, they advised removing "all personal identifying information" and to remove or sanitize sensitive files.

Wi-Fi connections should be turned off "at all times," according to the State Department.

"Do not check business or personal electronic devices with your luggage at the airport. Do not connect to local ISPs at cafes, coffee shops, hotels, airports, or other local venues. Change all your passwords before and after your trip," State warned.

The State Department said to "assume any electronic device you take can be exploited."

VOA News / Feb. 06, 2014 08:17 KST