Cybersecurity awareness: The next Olympic sport?

By Jenny L. Holmes

As if athletes traveling to Beijing in the coming weeks for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games did not have enough to worry about, they are now cautioned to use burner telephones and create separate email accounts while in China.

All athletes, coaches, attendees, and media are required to use the My2022 app for daily COVID-19 monitoring. The application also will provide information about the Olympics, including news. All visitors to the Olympics must download the app at least 14 days prior to their departure for China. Foreign visitors will also need to upload sensitive information (reportedly already provided to the Chinese government), like passport details, travel history, and medical conditions.

However, multiple cybersecurity firms have cautioned that the app fails to provide adequate protection, including encryption, on many of its files and transmission weaknesses in the app’s software could lead to easy exploitation. These vulnerabilities, combined with China’s national data security laws—which do not offer the same protection of privacy and freedom as those in the Western Hemisphere—raise alarm bells for many traveling to the Games.

One cybersecurity firm also found a “censorship keywords” list built into the app, allowing people to flag “politically sensitive” expressions. The list of keywords reportedly included the names of many Chinese leaders and references to the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square.

So as athletes pack up their uniforms and equipment and prepare for their sport’s biggest stage, they should also prepare their online presence. After all, keeping up a strong cybersecurity awareness is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Jenny L. Holmes


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