Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Cup begins today in Russia, and hackers are watching the games.

Why it matters: In prior years, Cybersecurity firm Akamai has seen declines in cyberattacks while the World Cup games are in play — "at least until games are out of reach," said Patrick Sullivan, Akamai director of security technology.

Once games are well in hand, attacks from the losing team's nation spike well above normal. Often, said Sullivan, that takes the form of attacks designed to take down news stories in the victor's country that tout a home-team win.

Hacktivists: Sullivan notes activists frequently use various forms of cyber attacks during major sporting events to protest the host nation — often targeting sponsors to get their point across. He points to protestors upset with the amount of money spent in the recent Brazillian World Cup as an example.

  • But threat intelligence firm Flashpoint tells Codebook there is little credible chatter from activists looking to use the Russian games as a soapbox this year.

Nations: Some recent Olympics have been marred by destructive nation-led attacks, including attacks against the World Anti-Doping Association and wide-spread malware attacks. However, it appears World Cup host nation Russia was behind the bulk of these assaults, with occasional ducks behind fake personas like "Anonymous Poland."

  • "It is telling that those [cover personas] who claimed to be exposing hypocrisy in sports have been quiet when the event is in Russia," said Roman Sannikov, director of European research and analysis at Flashpoint.

Tourist traps: The U.S. and U.K. governments are warning tourists and soccer players to leave behind any device not essential to their survival, to avoid both cyber espionage and cyber criminals — Russia has thriving ecosystems of both.

What all this means for your favorite sport: Maybe soccer isn't your thing. But every time there is a successful cyberattack at a sporting event, said Craig Williams, director of outreach for Cisco's Talos research group, the threat creeps closer to a big event — sports or otherwise — that you care about.

  • "There's never been a publicly acknowledged Olympic Destroyer type attack at a U.S. sporting event," said Williams. "But you have to think of this like arson. Every time there's a successful attack, the arsonists gets emboldened."

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 12,995,037 — Total deaths: 570,435 — Total recoveries — 7,157,634Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 3,341,838— Total deaths: 135,425 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. World: WHO head: There will be no return to the "old normal" for the foreseeable future — Hong Kong Disneyland closing due to surge.
  4. States: California orders sweeping rollback of open businesses as virus cases surge — Cuomo says New York will use formula to determine if reopening schools is safe.
  5. Politics: McEnany denies White House issued "opposition research" on Fauci.

California orders sweeping rollback of open businesses as virus cases surge

Photo: Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered indoor operations for restaurants, wineries, movie theaters and other family entertainment like zoos, museums and card rooms to cease immediately. Bars must also close entirely.

Why it matters: It's the largest statewide rollback of a reopening plan yet, underscoring the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in California.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. rejects China's claims to territory in South China Sea

Photo: Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images

The State Department announced Monday that it rejects most of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, a first from the U.S. as the Trump administration toughens its approach toward Beijing.

Why it matters, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: This is a significant, if symbolic, step toward a tougher U.S. approach to China's attempted annexation of the open seas.