For weeks the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has been under cyber attack. A Russian hacker group by the name of Tsar Team, also known as Fancy Bears, has spread leaked information from WADA’s database about certain athletes from the Olympics. This information contained records about drug use by athletes. Craig Reedie, WADA’s president, states that none of this information is sinister, as there are medications that are necessary for certain athletes to take. The Fancy Bears are threatening to leak more information, however, as they have taken a lot more data than they have already leaked.
Why is Tsar Team Hacking WADA’s Database?
Many speculate that this is “revenge” for Russia initially being accused and later caught by the WADA for having rigged drug tests for their athletes years ago. There was a lot of bribery and intimidation involved to hide the drug use of their top athletes. Some of Russia’s secret service agents even disguised themselves as and replaced scientists of the Moscow Drug Lab. To top it all off, Russia encouraged these athletes to use the forbidden drugs.
This resulted in the WADA suspending certain Russian athletes as well as them saying that Russia’s behavior reflects that of their behavior during the times of the “Cold War.” They’ve also said that these tactics are a “deeply rooted culture” in Russia. Here are but a few actions that show that and surround the doping program:
- a lab that held the 1400 samples from the Russian athletes destroyed all of them
- officials bribed certain people into removing doping violations
- to avoid random testings, officials also told Russian athletes to change their identities
Years later, Tsar Team is hacking WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System, or ADAMS. This group is probably trying to humiliate other countries and their respective athletes by attempting to show that these countries are hypocrites for calling Russia dishonest about their drug tests. The Fancy Bears’ goal may also be to try to discredit the WADA.
How did the Fancy Bears Breach the Security of ADAMS?
Spear phishing is the probable cause for how Tsar Team has gained illegal access to this database. They created an International Olympic Committee, or IOC, account for the Rio 2016 Olympics. This alone has already given the Fancy Bears an entrance to the virtual private network, or VPN, used by members of the WADA. After that, chances are they’ve sent multiple emails to different members of the WADA, using spear phishing. The process of spear phishing enables the Fancy Bears to get the information necessary to receive an entry into ADAMS and steal the data contained within.
Which Athletes’ Privacy Information was Leaked?
At first, Tsar Team has released confidential medical information from these four athletes:
- Elena Delle Donne, US women’s basketball player
- Simone Biles, US Olympic Gymnastics star
- Venus Williams, a tennis star of many accomplishments
- Serena Williams, a tennis star of many accomplishments
President Reedie confirmed that none of the leaked information of these athletes displays any form of dishonesty. Many of this data does mention some medications they take as well as certain medical practices, but they are not considered illegal by the WADA. In fact, they have received therapeutic exceptions, meaning these are necessary for the general functionality of the athletes. Simone Biles even came out to the public to say that the medicine she is taking is for her ADHD, nothing suspicious. However, it doesn’t stop there. The Fancy Bears have leaked even more information later on, specifically of 25 athletes from various countries. They include:
- 10 from the United States
- 5 from Germany
- 5 from Great Britain
- 1 from Denmark
- 1 from Russia
- 1 from Poland
- 1 from Romania
- 1 from the Czech Republic
Although the leaked information has no signs illegal drug use by any of the athletes, they do contain other confidential information. One athlete, in particular, had his phone number leaked to the public in addition to the leakage of this data. This has caused stress and concern among many of these athletes.
What are the Actions Being Taken to Try and Stop Tsar Team?
Russia denies that Tsar Team is actually from Russia. However, they are actively doing their part to try to stop this hacking attack. As for WADA, they are reaching out to the athletes, as they know that the athletes are going through a tough time. WADA is also actively doing and ongoing investigation in their company and VPNs as well as obtaining the help they need from the right law enforcement authorities.
Yuliya Stepanova and the Hacking Incident in August
Before all of these hacking attacks and data leakages, the Tsar Team targeted Yuliya Stepanova’s ADAMS account in August. She is known as the main “whistleblower” on Russia’s illegal, under-the-carpet drug program. This means that she helped discover and expose Russia for their wrongdoings, which led to the program’s inevitable shut-down. After this attack, Stepanova fled to the U.S., fearing for her life.
The basis for their impelled action was revenge; leaking information of athletes from different countries in hopes of “exposing” them. Their efforts, altogether, have proven futile in that case. Although these athletes do feel uncomfortable and even afraid that Tsar Team revealed a lot of their confidential information to the public, they are not discredited. Their information does not contain any illegal drug use, but rather needed and legal medication use that doesn’t unfairly enhance their performance in any way. So, the use of this kind of medication has been exempt by the WADA. As for the Fancy Bears, it’s only a matter of time before the WADA discovers them. They may possibly leak more information in the future, but until then, WADA is working around the clock with the right authorities to find and shut them down.