England football fans are being warned they could face an onslaught of attacks from both terrorists and Russian hackers if they visit the World Cup, next month.
Up to 10,000 Britons heading to the World Cup in Russia have been urged not to take their smart phones to the competition over fears they will be targeted by hackers, while what is left of the depleted ranks of Isis has called on it supporters to attack stadiums.
ISIS supporters have begun to recycle slick propaganda guidelines for attacking stadiums, amid fresh calls for attacks at the World Cup. Propaganda sites have released online instructions to ‘attack them (football fans) with a truck or a car’ before ‘blowing them up, slaughtering them and shooting them’.
Previous threats used pictures of Lionel Messi behind bars with blood pouring from his eyes, as attacks on the event were called for. Former Counterterrorism Police Chief Ahmet Yayla revealed there have been ‘no specific’ threats made, but that Russian security forces should be wary at stadium entrances and ensure thorough searches are carried out.
The Associate Professor at Georgetown University said authorities must be on their guard as fresh calls for attacks could inspire ‘lone wolf’ killings.
Russia has seen multiple Islamic State attacks in recent years, especially with brutal units form the North Caucasus, an area between Russia and the Caucasus mountains.
The area, which includes Chechnya, has produced some of the most dangerous and deranged jihadis in the Syrian conflict. Meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a branch of Government listening post GCHQ, has warned fans not to take their phones is they insist on travelling to watch the games. Public Wi-Fi should be avoided and fans should never leave their phone unguarded, cyber security chiefs warned.
Fears over the Russian government’s internet capabilities have been heightened in recent months in the wake of the Salisbury spy poisoning, with the Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker warning on Monday of the Kremlin’s ‘high levels of cyber attacks’. The NCSC, in a blog post entitled ‘Avoid scoring a cyber security own goal this
summer’, recommended fans check with their mobile network whether their phone will work abroad and consider taking only what is necessary. It suggested: ‘It may be safer and cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go phone.’ All devices should be password protected and two-step authentication should be added, security chiefs said.
The NCSC urged fans to avoid streaming or downloading content from unofficial sites and advised against using internet banking while abroad, as well as plugging in any USB sticks offered as gifts. The blog also said: ‘Public and hotel Wi-Fi connections may not be safe; carefully consider what information you might be sharing when using these connections.’Stay alert when using devices and don’t share your phone, laptop or USBs with anyone.
‘Keep your devices with you at all times if possible rather than leave them unattended. Hotel rooms, safes and lockers are not always secure because other people may have access codes or keys.’ Antivirus software and all apps on any phones, tablet or laptop should be up-to-date and data should be backed up before leaving for the tournament.
Fans have been told to expect ‘off the scale’ numbers of military-style police at the tournament, in response to the terror threat. Ten thousands England fans are expected to travel to the country next month but demand for tickets is lower than previous tournaments, with only one of England’s Group G games selling out its FA allocation so far. Security services have insisted checks will be rigorous and there will be a huge police presence.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, national lead of football policing, said thousands of armed Russian police will be deployed on match days as part of a huge security operation. ‘As you approach the stadiums there is an overwhelming presence and I think the chances of disorder in any of those environments is pretty remote,’ he said.
Chief Inspector Joe Stokoe, who will travel to the cities hosting England games, added: ‘People do need to be aware that the levels of policing and military is probably going to be off the scale to what we particularly see in the UK.’
England fans were warned to respect their Russian hosts. Supporters travelling to host cities such as Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, have also been warned to be ‘culturally aware’ and not provoke locals by singing antagonising songs or displaying flags on sensitive memorials and sights.