Olympic athletes heading to Beijing warned of Chinese cyber spies – Canada News

Athletes representing Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympics next month are urged to take extra precautions against Chinese cyber surveillance, including the danger of electronic devices being infected with spyware.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said the government “is working closely” with the Olympic and Paralympic committees, which educate athletes on safety in China, including the risk of hacking.

The minister said the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees have put in place a “solid” plan to protect athletes, especially against Chinese espionage.

“Athletes are given safety briefings,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Cyber ​​security is part of the briefings athletes receive.”

St-Onge said, for security reasons, operational planning to protect athletes could not be disclosed.

“We are well aware of espionage and all these problems with China,” the minister said.

The International Olympic Committee gives phones and SIM cards to all athletes, including the Canadian team, to use during their stay.

She said the government is making sure Canadian athletes have consular services in China if they need help.

She said “all other aspects of security, whether espionage or otherwise” are covered by the training and briefings of the Olympic and Paralympic committees.

“We are here to offer all the support and information we have,” she said. “We have worked closely together and I can tell you the plan is solid.”

She said strict precautions were also in place to protect athletes, coaches and support staff from COVID-19 while in China, with athletes being placed in a bubble.

St-Onge said the eyes of the world will be on China during the Olympics and Paralympics, which kick off in three weeks.

As with all Olympic hosts, the Chinese will be responsible for making sure the athletes are safe, she said.

The minister said she believes Canada made the right decision to join other countries, including the United States, in a diplomatic boycott of China on human rights grounds. Politicians and diplomats will not attend the games, but athletes will compete as usual.

“We made the right decision. There are other countries that have adopted the same strategy. The question of human rights is certainly a permanent problem and it will not be solved only with this or with the holding of the Olympic Games or not, ”she said.

Nicole Watts, director of public relations for the Canadian Paralympic Committee, said cybersecurity was part of her planning for the games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement “that it takes cybersecurity seriously.”

“We are working with cybersecurity experts, government agencies, the International Olympic Committee and other National Olympic Committees to ensure that we have appropriate plans for each Games environment we work in,” said a spokesperson.

“We reminded all Team Canada members that the Olympics present a unique opportunity for cybercrime and urged them to be very diligent at the Games, including considering leaving their personal devices at home, limiting personal information stored on devices brought to the Games, and to practice good cyber hygiene at all times. “

St-Onge, who was sworn in as sports minister in October, said the safety of athletes and people participating in sports in general was a priority for her.

“We must prevent and address the abuse, mistreatment and harassment in sport, which engages so many young Canadians. This will be the goal of my first year in this position, ”she said.

She said finding ways to keep children and adults active during the pandemic was a key challenge, with restrictions on contact and the number of people who can participate in sports.

The minister is preparing to announce an injection of $ 80 million in community sport to “help young people get active again” and ensure that local clubs – many of which have been forced to close their doors because of COVID – 19 – can continue.

“We need to find solutions to keep our children and youth active and to help Canadians get active and play sport. We know how important it is for mental and physical health and the past two years have been very difficult, ”she said. .

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