REvil Ransomware Group is Back in Business After Two Months Break

They’re one of the most feared names in the ransomware-as-a-service business. Also known as Sodinokibi, they’ve been paralyzing systems of organizations worldwide and asking for million-dollar ransoms (usually in Bitcoins) in exchange for decryption keys.

After its big Kaseya attack, the REvil ransomware group is in the spotlight again after a small hide-n-seek game, pretending to disappear in July 2020.

New data suggests the group simply took some time off, and now they’re back to their business as usual. Ransomware schemes are one of today’s biggest cyber threats, so you should always stay on alert.

Let’s see how REvil, a Russian-based group operates, and what you can do to protect your data.

REvil’s Ransomware Group Operating Procedure

REvil started to operate in 2019, offering adaptable encryptors and decryptors, infrastructure and services for negotiation communications. The criminal group also has a leak website called “Happy Blog,” where they post victims’ stolen data if they don’t pay the ransom demand.

First, They Targeted VIPs

      • Demanding $42 million from US president Donald Trump; the threat led to nothing except a release of 169 ” emails which that to Donald Trump or contained the word ‘trump’.
      • Posting legal documents related to singer Lady Gaga
      • Threats about selling information about Madonna or leaking UK celebrities’ plastic surgery photos.

Then, REvil Group Went After Big Companies

REvil gang has been involved in numerous attacks against well-known companies, including JBS, Coop, Travelex, GSMLaw, Kenneth Cole, Grupo Fleury, and others.

May 2021

REvil’s possible link with the Colonial Pipeline attack

A ransomware attack temporarily disrupted oil supplies across the US eastern seaboard and forced Colonial Pipeline to shut down operations and temporarily cut out IT systems. The investigation linked the DarkSide group as the attackers, but security researchers later discovered this group includes former members of the REvil gang. The researchers also depicted the malware contained codes REvil typically used.
June 2021

REvil’s attack on JBS, one of the world’s largest meat suppliers

The attack led to a temporary shutdown of all the company’s beef plants in the US, negatively impacted US and Australia’s meat supplies, and compromised employees’ data. JBS company eventually paid a ransom of $11 million to regain access to its systems.
July 2021

REvil’s exploit on Kaseya’s vulnerabilities

REvil’s recent attack was against IT management software vendor Kaseya that affected nearly 2,000 companies worldwide. The ransomware gang targeted an unpatched zero-day vulnerability in Kaseya’s VSA software. REvil initially requested a $70 million ransom, then lowered their demand to $ 50 million in return for the decryption key.

Kaseya’s huge impact made US president Joe Biden publicly announce that American intelligence agencies will investigate and fight back if the attack shows any Russian implication.

Rumor has it the pressure has too high for the REvil group to handle, so they soon vanished, shut down their website, leaving many victims stranded with any solution of decrypting their files.

Two months later, the group returned with their leak site accessible again, making it possible for the victims to pay up or negotiate a ransom. Victims had their timers reset, and their ransom demands have the same status from when the ransomware gang shut down in July.

Useful Tips to Stay Away From Ransomware

Ransomware is one of the biggest criminal moneymaking schemes. They go far, and beyond regular computer viruses, so you can expect to find yourself with your device locked down, unable to access your most precious files.

Here’s how you can prevent becoming a ransomware victim:

1. Use an antivirus and a firewall solution

These two are basic elements for your cyber hygiene.

A good antivirus notifies you if something is wrong before your device gets encrypted. Run malware scans regularly and delete any suspicious files.

Likewise, the right firewall solution prevents malicious activity from getting inside your system.

2. Regularly back up your files

Ransomware attacks rely on your willingness to pay to regain access to your files back. Attackers have nothing on you anymore if you keep your documents backed up in the cloud or on storage devices.

If you suspect a ransomware attack, you can just reset your device to factory settings and restore your files.

3. Don’t fall for phishing attempts

Cybercriminals try to trick you into answering an email, an unsolicited phone call, a text message, or even an instant message. Their goal is to get you to click on a link or download an installer that will infect your device with ransomware. Don’t fall for phishing scams and pay attention to all the details online.

4. Always update your software

Most ransomware victims have vulnerable, outdated apps. Reconsider before clicking ‘Maybe later’ on every update notification.

Many times, updates come with security patches. These will prevent malicious parties from exploiting potential vulnerabilities.

Additional tip-off: Keep your email address safe. Many digital attacks, including ransomware, can target your email address, so it’s always a good idea to check if your email address was subject to a data breach.

CyberGhost ID Guard constantly checks your email address against data leaks, so you know if your privacy is at risk.

Log into your CyberGhost VPN account, add your email addresses, and you get an overview of your accounts, all in one place. ID Guard has an ongoing monitoring service and will notify you if your email addresses are ever involved in a breach.

 

What are your cyber hygiene habits to steer clear of ransomware or other online threats?

Let me know in the comments section below.

A World Without Passwords is a Safer Place – Microsoft’s Latest Bold Proposal

They say no one likes passwords except cyber-attackers. Most of us have internalized them as the necessary evil to keep our data safe.

Microsoft wants to destroy this myth, introducing a paradigm shift. The company has declared war on passwords a few years back, announcing this day will come – the day when you’ll say ‘goodbye’ to the tiresome gesture of typing in a password when logging into your account.

Still, this doesn’t mean the end of any security measure, so don’t hold your breath just yet! The new approach could have huge implications though, since most of us use one or more Microsoft accounts, whether for work or personal purposes.

Let’s burrow into Microsoft’s proposal and how the company plans to unfold a passwordless experience.

Microsoft’s New Passwordless Feature

Microsoft started testing the new feature in March 2021, letting Azure enterprise users log in without a password. The logic behind Microsoft’s decision lies in this philosophy: when an attacker knows or guesses a user’s password, the odds are the attacker will successfully capture passwords for the user’s other accounts. That’s why Microsoft also ceased the password policy expiration for Windows 10 and Windows Server for their latest version, stating that it’s an ‘ancient and obsolete’ procedure.

In essence, Microsoft management believes ditching the use of passwords equals an increased account safety while taking weight off users’ shoulders. Vasu Jakkal, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Security, mentioned users today deal with the hardship of memorizing so many passwords. They often recycle them for multiple accounts or using simple ones that attackers can easily brute force. Jakkal also pointed out Microsoft deals with 579 password attacks every second, adding up to 18 billion every year.

Microsoft users will be enabled to ditch the password from their consumer account and set up a different authentication option, such as:

      • security keys like authentication tokens
      • verification codes sent to your phone or email
      • fingerprint or face scan through the Windows Hello biometrics system
      • QR code for the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app

Microsoft’s release will run over the coming weeks, allowing you to use alternative logins into Microsoft Edge or Microsoft 365 apps and services.

Why You Still Need to Use Passwords

Along with bringing a new idea to the table, Microsoft also invented a new word: PASS-WORD-LESS!

The question is: are we ready to give up passwords for good?

Protecting your data with passwords may not be obsolete just yet, or not entirely anyway.

It’s not only a basic cybersecurity habit we’ve all adjusted to but also one of the primary concerns when it comes to a company’s safety policies. Apart from Microsoft, you still have plenty of other accounts where you might not have the option to implement a password alternative. Whereas for many companies, especially non-tech ones, replacing passwords with voice recognition, fingerprint, or retinal scans, still remains a tough challenge to enforce.

Furthermore, many of these alternatives are far from being perfect and controversial from a privacy perspective. You can always change a password, but that’s never possible with fingerprints or retina, for instance.

Most of us and the largest number of businesses will still rely on using passwords in combination with basic 2FA (Two Factor Authentication), as codes sent on your phone or email.

However, using any password won’t do the trick; you should always choose a strong and complex password. That’s because weak, insecure passwords are one of the major causes of a data breach. Only the US registered over 1,000 data breaches during 2020.

Here are some interesting statistics about passwords:

interesting, latest password statistics

Source: Ponemom Institute

Make Your Life Easier with a Password Manager

Trying to memorize dozens of passwords for all your accounts is not only a challenge but rather an impossible mission. Placing sticky notes on your computer screen was never a good idea either. Storing all your passwords in an encrypted and completely secure place is your safest option.

Try a bulletproof privacy-oriented password manager from CyberGhost VPN. Here are the benefits:

      • generate strong passwords quick & easy
      • instantly login with the Login Autofill feature
      • import Chrome saved passwords
      • store an unlimited number of passwords
      • track every password change
      • assign tags to better organize and use passwords

Choose CyberGhost Password Manager as an add-on to your CyberGhost VPN subscription, and you’ll get safe logins and prevent password attacks!

GDPR Issues € 225 Million to WhatsApp for Violating Transparency Principles

‘Your Privacy is Our Priority. Message Privately’

This is WhatsApp’s strapline that you can quickly notice on the company’s homepage.

The company may want to convince you that it’s committed to ensuring private conversations. Yet, the many scandals that have surrounded WhatsApp make it difficult to believe the validity of these strong words.

In the latest news, WhatsApp received a fine for disregarding to properly notify European users how it collects and uses their data, as well as how it shares users’ data with Facebook, the app’s parent company.

Let’s find out more details about WhatsApp’s breaking EU’s data privacy law and what this means to you.

The Implications of the Second-Largest GDPR Fine

WhatsApp has been sharing metadata (including phone number, IP address, cookies, location) with Facebook since 2016. However, since GDPR was enforced in 2018, it was under a legal loophole even if this practice was privacy-invasive.

The investigation related to WhatsApp’s GDPR violations started in December 2018 in Ireland – Facebook’s European headquarters.

Ireland’s DPC (Data Protection Commission) found inconsistencies in WhatsApp’s sharing users data with Facebook and Instagram. WhatsApp users didn’t explicitly consent to share their personal data with other companies, which breaks the GDPR terms.

For example, at the beginning of 2021, you might remember that WhatsApp delivered pop-up messages informing you that your account would be suspended or deleted if you don’t agree to share your personal data with Facebook. The messaging service received a wave of criticism coming from its numerous users and privacy rights groups.

As a result, many users abandoned WhatsApp and downloads of the app dropped to 10.6 million, down from 12.7 million in just one week during January 2021.

Now, WhatsApp has to pay a fine of €225 million for failing to comply with EU’s data protection and transparency obligations. The fine is the second-largest GDPR penalty ever given, after Amazon’s €746 million ($887 million) in Luxembourg in July 2020. It’s also the biggest the Irish regulator has ever issued under the EU’s GDPR data rights charter.

The Data Protection Commission also ordered the messaging app to add new terms to its privacy policy that would adhere to Europe’s data protection regulation within three months.

Representatives of the WhatsApp company stated they disagree with the decision and plan to appeal, as reported by the Irish Times.

Notorious Data Privacy Issues Around WhatsApp

2016

Facebook Data Sharing Controversy

WhatsApp changed its terms and conditions and privacy policy, notifying the possibility of linking your WhatsApp phone numbers with your Facebook profile. The European Commission fined Facebook, as the mentioned option already existed since 2014, when the social media company merged with WhatsApp.
2018

The Fake News Scandal

WhatsApp was a media target for spreading fake news and hoaxes during the Brazilian government elections. Media related that various shady companies hired people to spread misinformation against Brazilian candidates.
2019

The Pegasus Spyware

WhatsApp and Facebook disclosed that third party actors exploited a security weakness in the messaging app through Pegasus software. Pegasus targeted Indian journalists, lawyers, activists, and government officials during Indian elections and accessed their WhatsApp information. WhatsApp stated they had notified the Indian government twice about this bug. Many security experts and casual WhatsApp users still wondered how it enabled such a huge privacy breach.

The Easy Way to Make Your WhatsApp Messages Private

Your phone has pretty much become the extension of your arm. In the same way, WhatsApp is your most convenient tool to communicate important stuff with friends and family, or your kids’ schoolteacher, or your doctor.

Sure, you can always drop WhatsApp and choose a more private messaging app. That may be impossible sometimes, for practical reasons. Most people use WhatsApp, so you still have a few or more contacts you need to message on this platform even if you get a different app.

However, you can double your encryption methods if you use a VPN. That’s because a VPN encryption adds an extra layer of protection and security to all your data, including online messages.

No digital spy can see anything that you do online, so you’re covering all your personal information. Even if someone could get access to your data, they would only see scrambled untranslatable codes.

Give CyberGhost VPN a test drive with our free trial and discover the wonders of staying invisible on the web.

 

Did you ever consider ditching WhatsApp? What was the reason why you’ve thought about it?

Let me know in the comments below.

An Activist’s Guide to Online Privacy and Safety

Malala Yousafzai – the Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist – once famously wrote, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Had Malala said this nowadays, she could very well have added: “one 2FA-locked smartphone, one encrypted messaging service, one robust VPN” – to name a few recent safety measures needed for today’s activists.

Indeed, the list of protections that activists must use online is growing, and with good reason. It’s increasingly difficult to maintain your online privacy, as technologies (and those who control them) advance and encroach upon their users.

The good news is that many of the precautions that activists can take online are relatively simple to adopt. We’ve compiled a handy Activist’s Guide to Online Privacy and Safety here, to help you navigate through your options – freeing up more time for the pursuit of your causes.

Before we dig in, let’s looks at some recent and influential movements, that are drawing activists to action:

What do the above movements have in common today? The internet. The fight for all causes has become fully digital, and this means everything you do online – from organizing rallies or protests, sharing campaign materials, or just expressing your opinion – could now be monitored or even be used against you by those who oppose your cause.

If you’re called to activism – either as a participant or an organizer – it’s more important than ever to protect your online privacy.

Why Is Protecting Online Privacy Important for Activists?

As an activist, you’re likely attracting attention in the name of your cause. This means you could often land yourself on the radar of government officials or law enforcement agencies – and you might also be monitored by your opponents, rival groups, and informants.

With surveillance technology more widely available, such bad-faith actors can easily gain a complete picture of your online and offline activities. In other words, what you do online can have serious real-world implications.

Take the rather extreme case of Roman Protasevich – the exiled, Belarusian activist – who used Telegram to coordinate protests in opposition of the Belarus government in 2020 and 2021. In May 2021, Protasevich’s Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced by a Belarusian fighter jet to divert and land in Minsk, Belarus. Protasevich was arrested upon landing.

The following day he appeared on Belarusian state TV confessing to “organizing mass unrest”. He had marks on his body, leading to the widespread belief that Protasevich had been tortured. He has since been confined to house arrest in Belarus.

Belarusian authorities were able to track Portasevich through his online presence, follow his travels, and then pursue his arrest. The lesson is: if you post something on social media that is critical of those in power, you’re likely being noticed by more than just your followers.

It is therefore imperative that, as an activist, you’re taking steps to protect your online privacy and safety.

What Are the Biggest Risks to Online Privacy for Activists?

There are six major areas of digital risks that can impact you as an activist. They are: government surveillance; internet connection privacy; website privacy; data privacy; device and account security; and communications and social media. We’ll explore each of these areas in full, but here’s a top-level summary:

Risk: Government Surveillance

As mentioned, if you’re an activist in the public eye – e.g. active on social media, speaking at conferences, visibly engaged with civil society organizations – you may become a victim of targeted government surveillance, especially if you’ve openly demanded reform, promoted human rights, or exposed potential corruption or violations.

Voicing concerns about your government’s policies and conduct is never going to make you popular with the authorities. This is most problematic in countries with dubious records of cyber-surveillance – you’ll need to be extra careful if you live somewhere that regularly disregards individual rights. This is not limited to countries with authoritarian regimes, however.

Thanks to Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks, we’ve learned the extent to which governments of all types circumvent privacy protection laws to monitor their citizens’ online activity.

Worryingly, you don’t have to have done anything wrong to be the subject of targeted surveillance. The more recent Pegasus spyware scandal has shed light on how – from Mexico to the Middle East – governments use a range of sophisticated cyber tools to spy on a number of professionals including journalists, educators, and even government officials themselves.

Through surveillance mechanisms, authorities have been known to access devices, retrieve contacts, uncover passwords, monitor texts and phone calls, and interfere with activists’ work.

This sort of activity has also bordered on nefarious, as governments have used the information collected through surveillance means to smear activists, rebrand them as criminals, and fabricate charges to have them arrested.

TARGETED SURVEILLANCE: Ahmed Mansoor

A human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor called for progressive political reforms. In response, the UAE state security apparatus allegedly hacked his phone, computer, and even bank account, before arresting him for questionable charges that resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Digital Surveillance

Governments in at least 25 countries have implemented large-scale surveillance programs, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been an unprecedented increase in digital surveillance, including mobile data tracking, apps to record personal contact with others, tracking of medical records, and CCTV networks with facial recognition.

With billions of people facing enhanced monitoring, abuses of power are a big concern if the proper safeguards aren’t there. Researchers and privacy advocates say it will be difficult to roll back the increased surveillance.

These methods have been adopted by democratic and authoritarian states alike. In Western democracies, this surveillance tech is likely to be under greater public scrutiny, but it remains to be seen if your personal and health data will remain private and unexploited once the pandemic subsides.

How to Protect Your Online Privacy

Activists like you may feel that protecting your online privacy is a daunting task, especially after reading about all the possible threats. Know that you can do several straightforward things to protect yourself – from securing your internet connection by using a VPN, to safeguarding your social media and mobile devices.

Risk: Internet Connection Privacy

What Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) Knows

Your ISP handles all of your internet traffic, so it’s able to monitor and track everything you do online. Your ISP can potentially see what you order online, your passwords, your emails, all your files, and even what you ask your smart speaker.

What’s worse: your ISP can collect enough personal data on you to link your various activism activities, possibly helping authorities to build an incriminating case against you. ISPs claim they don’t send your data to third parties, but they can be compelled to hand over your data to law enforcement and government agencies.

In Australia, for example, ISPs have been ordered to provide federal police with user browsing history. Some of that data is stored for up to two years.

Use A VPN for Secure Connections

To combat the intrusiveness of ISPs, your best bet is to consider investing in a trustworthy VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN will help anonymize your internet activity and provide you with a private, secure connection when you go online. VPNs are quite easy to set up and use multiple layers of protection, including:

Encryption

Premium VPNs protect your connection with robust 256-AES encryption. This prevents prying eyes from tracking or snooping on your internet activity. This means your ISP and other third parties won’t be able to see the websites you visit or the services you use.

No-logs Policy

Choose a VPN with a strict no-logs policy because that VPN won’t be able to store any of your user data on its servers. This includes your personal and browsing information. If authorities request any information on you, the VPN won’t have anything to hand over.

IP Address Masking

Larger VPNs have thousands of servers all over the world. When you connect to one, the VPN IP address you’re connected to masks your real IP address. This makes it impossible for anyone to trace your internet activity back to you.

THE DISADVANTAGES OF A FREE VPN

Dozens of free VPNs promise to protect your privacy and sensitive data online. Many of them come with major disadvantages and dangers, including:

    • Third-party trackers embedded in their software
    • Limits on the data amount you can use and number of devices you can protect
    • Minimal server options
    • Slower internet speeds when using the VPN
    • Hidden malware and adware
    • Pop up ads, suggesting your data is shared with third parties
Circumventing Online Censorship

If you live in a country with strict online censorship, you’re probably unable to access certain news websites, apps, or social media. A robust VPN allows you to connect to servers in countries where those sites and apps aren’t subject to censorship.

By changing your digital location, you can access geographically restricted content, access unbiased resources, and even organize your activism online. Not every VPN unlocks every restricted content, so best to check which ones work best in your location.

Enhanced Security

Most premium VPNs can be used on major desktop and mobile operating systems. You can even use them on routers, smart TVs, and a few other connected devices. You can also combine a VPN with the other resources in this guide, providing all-around device security.

Use the Tor Network for Anonymous Internet Access

Tor (The Onion Router) is a great way for activists to get online securely and anonymously. When you’re connected to the Tor network, none of your internet activity or data can be traced back to you because it’s all encrypted several times.

We recommend using a VPN and Tor together for maximum privacy and protection. You should connect to a VPN first and then to Tor (VPN over Tor). This way, you get all the privacy protections of the Tor network, and the Tor node won’t be able to see your home IP address. Other benefits of using the VPN over Tor protocol include:

    • Your VPN encrypted traffic prevents your home network from detecting you’re using Tor.
    • A VPN can grant you access to the Tor network in countries and establishments where it is blocked.
    • Your VPN won’t be able to see what you’re doing within the Tor network.
    • If the Tor browser has a bug, your VPN provides an extra layer of security between you and the bug.

Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

Using public Wi-Fi is risky – the traffic that flows through an open Wi-Fi network is usually unencrypted, meaning it’s an easy target for online snoops. If you have to use a public network when engaging in activism-related activities, then it’s imperative that you protect yourself.

Risk: Website Privacy

Browsers

Your standard web browser routinely collects and retains information about your connection and internet activity. The information your browser shares with the websites you visit includes:

    • Your IP address
    • The name of your browser
    • The type of device you’re using
    • Your cookie settings
    • Your browser plugins
    • Your mouse clicks and movements
    • Where you are and your time zone
    • Other basic information including your screen resolution and battery level

Most of this information may seem trivial, but the combined data creates a unique digital fingerprint that websites use to identify you and track you online.

Even if you’ve cleared your cookies (small data files that websites store on your device), history, and cache – or are using an incognito/private window – your browser fingerprint will be visible to websites and third-party analytics. This can potentially create direct links between you and your activism activity.

You might think that simply changing your browser settings to improve privacy will help prevent tracking. This could actually make your browser fingerprint even more unique.

How to Browse Privately and Anonymously

We highly recommend installing browser extensions or switching to a browser that gives you more control over your privacy, to limit your exposure when browsing the web.

If you’re reluctant to change your web browser, you can do a few things to limit the amount of tracking and the data stored on your online activity, including:

    • Regularly clearing your cache and cookies to limit your risk of being tracked;
    • Limiting the number of cookies you accept; and
    • Configuring your browser to block tracking ads and invisible trackers.

These steps will help, but they don’t do much to improve your browser fingerprint. As mentioned, configuring certain settings could actually make your browser fingerprint seem even more unique to the websites you visit.

An effective way to lower your browser fingerprinting risk is to use the Tor network. All Tor users should have the exact same browser fingerprint, no matter what device or operating system is being used. You can configure a browser to access the Tor network, or simply use the Tor Browser.

Search Engines

You’d be surprised by how much Google and other search engines know about you. They record a vast amount of data to create targeted ads and personalize your web browsing.

You should know that most search engines can be compelled by law enforcement or government agencies to hand over your search and browsing data. If you’ve regularly searched for information about dissidents and government officials, or looked at legal support and international organizations, think about what this could mean for you as an activist.

We know that Google is the go-to search engine for most people. But it’s one of the worst when it comes to tracking and mining user data. A recent investigation by the Associated Press found that Google still tracks your location even if you disable the ‘Location History’ feature.

Risk: Data Privacy

Activists are often repositories of crucial information, and many sit on a wealth of resources that can help progress their causes. These resources, stored in the form of data, can be vulnerable to malignant attacks from many of the aforementioned bad-faith actors.

Encrypted flash drives (memory sticks) and hard drives are one option for securely storing your data – but storing files onto physical formats may make your data even more vulnerable to theft, loss, or technical glitches. Physical devices also have finite storage capacities.

For this reason, cloud storage has become all-important. Data in the cloud is also more shareable – an important trait for activists needing to divulge materials to promote their causes.

Cloud Storage

We should start with a caveat: just because your cloud storage service provides encryption for your data, doesn’t mean your privacy is guaranteed. Encryption alone won’t safeguard against adamant prosecutors, who may compel large cloud services to cooperate – some services have been known to share data and files with government intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States.

Securing Cloud Storage

You can secure your cloud storage by choosing a provider that encrypts your files locally on your device before they’re uploaded to the cloud (as opposed to files that are encrypted in transit to the cloud). Remember that providers may have means to access encryption keys and can decode or hand your files over to the authorities if legally required.

A highly recommended alternative is to manually encrypt your files yourself before uploading them to a cloud service. That way, you’re the only one with the key to decoding your files – just be sure to never upload the encryption keys with your files.

There are several free and paid encryption apps available but check that they are compatible with both your cloud storage provider and your devices. Make sure the app uses end-to-end encryption, which means your files are encrypted before they leave your device and will stay that way until you access them again.

Risk: Device & Account Security

Mobile Devices

A careful activist will put measures in place to protect laptops, tablets, and phones. However, there’s still a great deal of information that’s given away when using mobile devices:

    • Texting and phone calls
    • Internet searches and visiting websites
    • Sending and receiving emails
    • Mobile banking
    • Posting on social media
    • Storing photos, files, and apps using Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, etc.

The GPS functionality and location services on your mobile devices can also be used to track your movements, even through your social media posts. Government agencies and law enforcement can and often do request this information from telecom providers. What would they discover if your location data were handed over?

A WORD ABOUT SIM CARDS

Mobile phones and privacy don’t mix. Instead of using your regular phone for activism, you could use a secondary phone with a prepaid SIM.

Register your prepaid SIM online with a VPN to protect your privacy.

Tracing a secondary phone is still going to be easy. But the point is to disassociate you from the phone, so be sure you:

      • Can’t be linked to the phone’s purchase or activation
      • Don’t install anything on the phone that can be used to identify you, like social media apps or your personal email account
      • Disable any communication-related features that don’t relate to texting or calling
      • Turn off the phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
      • Turn off the phone when you’re not using it
Use the Access Passcodes for Devices

Apart from the passcode, many smartphones now come with biometric unlocking features through fingerprints and facial recognition.

While biometric unlocking is an amazing piece of technology, it makes it easy to access your phone if you’re ever apprehended – just a quick press of your thumb or a point of the phone in your direction and your devices will be unlocked.

You would have to be compelled to hand over a passcode, which is a lot harder.

Two-Factor Authentication

Add an extra layer of security to your accounts by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. It protects you if someone tries to access your account from a new device, even if they have your login credentials. A text message with a six-digit authorization code is a common form of 2FA. It’s sent after entering your login details.

Update Security Software

Good mobile security software includes the option to remotely delete data from your devices at the click of a button. This is very useful if your phone is lost or confiscated by authorities.

To continually ensure the security of your mobile, you should update your software whenever new updates are released. These updates often include security patches that fix previous vulnerabilities to your software, making phones less vulnerable to breaches.

MORE DEVICE SECURITY TIPS
      • When traveling or visiting courts/government buildings, avoid keeping sensitive or private information on your devices in case they get scanned at security checkpoints.
      • Scan external devices and USB sticks for spyware and other malware before plugging them into your computer.
      • Check the credentials of anyone tasked with fixing your devices.
      • Avoid leaving your devices unaccompanied for long periods.
      • If you need to leave your devices unattended, remove any sensitive and personal information (or at the very least ensure they are locked and password protected).

Apps

THE WORST APPS FOR PRIVACY

FACEBOOK  Wants to fully access and control your device. It claims it’s necessary for app functionality.

FACEBOOK MESSENGER  Doesn’t use end-to-end encryption for your private messages, which are likely stored as plain text on its servers.

WEATHER APPS  Access your location to provide you with the weather, but then track your location 24/7.

MOBILE MULTIPLAYER GAMES  Many gaming apps log huge amounts of your personal data, including your contacts, location, name, and content of messages you share with other users.

Check App Permissions

If you think it’s strange that certain apps (like some of the games mentioned above) need to access your contacts, photos, or location, you’re not alone. It’s surprising how many apps and websites request these permissions by default during installation when they’re not needed for the app to function.

Check your app settings and turn off any unnecessary permissions, particularly your location. This will prevent your physical location from being logged, for example at protests, vigils, and demonstrations.

Delete Old Apps from Phones

If you don’t use an app anymore, get rid of it. Delete the account you used to set it up and then the app itself.

Account Security

Securing your devices and accounts is of utmost importance, and one of the simpler ways that activists can safeguard their online privacy.

Having strong passwords and passcodes ensures that no one can access your data and accounts if your devices are confiscated or end up in the wrong hands.

Risk: Communications & Social Media

Use Encrypted Communication

Activists often share sensitive information – with lawyers, journalists, organizations, and other activists. Talking face-to-face is the best way to have a truly private conversation, but, of course, this is not always an option.

When communicating online it’s best to use encrypted communication platforms, such as Signal, Wire, and Keybase. This way what you say is protected with end-to-end encryption.

Be advised that Telegram has been subject to data breaches and end-to-end encryption is not enabled by default, except for ‘secret chats’ and video and voice calls.

Email

Most popular email providers are very secure, with iron-clad protocols in place to prevent data leaks. But these protocols aren’t fail-proof. If your email provider is compelled by the authorities to hand over information contained in your emails, it’s unlikely that security mechanisms will protect you.

Maintaining a Private Email Identity

To minimize government authorities snooping around in your emails, you should take extra steps to protect your privacy. Encrypting emails is time-consuming and difficult, so the most practical solution is to use a private email service, like ProtonMail, Fastmail, or Zoho Mail.

Secure email providers designed for activists, including Rise Up and Aktivix are free as they’re funded by donations. But they don’t support the same volume of saved emails as paid providers, so you may need added email management – for example, saving older emails in secure cloud storage.

It’s best to keep your personal email and activism-related email accounts entirely separate. This way, the account(s) you use to organize events or engage with other activists cannot be linked to an account that contains your personal, identifying information.

GENERAL EMAIL SAFETY
    • Phishing is a type of scam where cyber criminals or other online snoops impersonate legitimate organizations or people you know, usually via email. The idea is to trick users into handing over their personal emails or other private information.
    • Scammers may also encourage you to download genuine-looking files or click on links, to get you to install malware or spyware onto your devices.
    • Never click on links or downloads sent via email from someone you don’t know. Always check the sender’s email address to ensure it’s legit.
    • If you receive an email alerting you of a problem with an account, don’t click any links in the email. It’s best to go to the service website or app directly.
    • Note that bad-faith actors targeting activists may use any of the above methods to gain access to your email accounts.

Social Media

While social media offers some of the most useful tools for activists – mass engagement for movements and causes, event promotion, or outreach and campaigning, for example – the companies behind the most prominent social apps and sites have been dogged by controversy, especially concerning privacy and security.

For example, in recent years, the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed how Facebook allowed the harvesting of personal data from millions of users. Privacy breaches like this show just how much social media knows about you. It’s also clear the information you share through these platforms isn’t as private as you might think.

Social media regularly uses geotagging to track your exact location. Facebook doesn’t just track where you go; it also collects data on what you buy, what you browse, and who you know and talk to. That’s why the platform routinely requests access to your contacts, call logs, and SMS.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FACIAL RECOGNITION

Surveillance dangers are increasing with pervasive and involuntary facial tagging.

Did you know?
        • Social media photo-sharing tools have built-in facial recognition software.
        • Platforms are building up vast databases that contain images of user faces.
        • Law enforcement routinely requests facial profile data from social media.
        • All your photos become the platform’s property once they’re uploaded.
        • Existing facial recognition programs have no opt-out option. Once you’re in, you’re in.
 

Facebook and other social media platforms have repeatedly proven that your personal data isn’t safe in their hands. The more personal information you make available on social media, the greater your privacy risk. For prominent activists, this is a double-edged sword between engagement and exposure.

Change Your Social Media Settings

As an activist, you should always customize your privacy settings from the platform defaults, to ensure maximum anonymity. This will enable you to decide who can view your profile, posts, location, photos, contact information, and if people can tag you or find you in profile searches.

You should also optimize your social media security settings. This is where you can set up two-factor authentication, block profiles, and get notifications when there has been any unauthorized attempt to access your account.

CREATING A SECURE SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT
    • Don’t use your real/full name
    • Sign up with a separate email address from your personal one
    • Don’t provide more information than necessary
    • Choose a profile picture that can’t identify you or your location, either visually or with meta tags
    • Choose a strong password and enable two-factor authentication
    • Select false answers for password recovery sections and store your answers in a password manager
    • Install a browser extension that blocks trackers and third-party cookies.
 

To fully understand your Social Media settings you may have to dive into the terms and conditions or privacy policies – this can be tedious and cumbersome (sometimes policies are deliberately murky).

Note that the most important sections are the ones that describe how your data is used when it is shared with third parties, as well as how the platform responds to requests from law enforcement.

Also remember: privacy settings are subject to change. Pay attention to updates to see if any previously private data could now be shared – but also check if additional settings could allow greater control over your privacy.

THE ARAB SPRING: SOCIAL MEDIA AND ACTIVISM

The Arab Spring was a movement to speak out against oppression in the hope of a more democratic future across the Middle East. Starting in Tunisia in late 2010, the movement culminated in the ousting of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt the following year.

Social media undoubtedly played a part in the Arab Spring uprising. Protesters were empowered by access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Networks formed online were crucial in organizing the activities of a core group of activists.

Additionally, social media was used to communicate to the rest of the world what was happening on the ground during the protests. Arab Spring activists were able to use social media so effectively because the authoritarian governments of Middle Eastern countries were yet to understand the power of communicating via social media.

Bottom Line

Throughout this guide, we hope to have provided you with critical knowledge to protect your online privacy and maintain a greater level of digital security – helping to prevent your activism activities from being intercepted, secretly shared without your consent, and possibly used against you.

It’s important that activists like you – educators, journalists, human rights lawyers, healthcare workers, scientists, and civil society organizers, to name a few – can go about your causes without worrying that you’re being monitored online, that your location is being tracked, or that your devices are being hijacked.

After reading through our guide, we hope you consider something else that activist Malala Yousafzai once said: “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

With this in mind, our hope is that this guide safeguards your voice online – helping you to ensure your privacy and safety – and ultimately empowering you to carry on fighting for what you believe in.

What Is Pegasus? All About the Infamous Software (Infographic)

If you’ve been following the latest news on government surveillance scandals around the world, the name Pegasus may have popped up in your feed. It’s a complex story, so we’ve put together an infographic explainer that covers all the basics.

How does Pegasus work? Check. Which world leaders were targeted? Check. Astonishing subscription costs? Check. Gasp. Check. Our infographic should help you understand why NSO’s Pegasus software is in the news so much.

Check it out below, or download it in full here.

(more…)

60+ Key Stats About the Olympic and Paralympic Games

From History to Human Rights – Major Olympics and Paralympics Statistics We Think You Should Know

Tokyo 2020 is just around the corner, so what better time to bring you 60+ stats about the Olympic and Paralympic Games? We’ll cover all of the important Olympic-related information. The ancient history of the Olympics? Check. The people, places, and nations that make the Olympics so fantastic? Yep.

What about Tokyo 2020? Progression at the Olympics and Paralympics? Scandals? Hacks? Health and Safety? Check, check, check.

We’ve done loads of research and put everything in one place so you don’t have to. On your marks, get set, and get ready to have your mind blown. Here are 60+ Olympic and Paralympic statistics.

The History of the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games are rooted in thousands of years of ancient history.

The Olympics originated in ancient Greece, and the games have given rise to several significant events since their restoration as the “modern Olympics” in the late 19th century.

Let’s take a closer look at the history of the Olympic Games.

General Statistics

We’ll start things off with a few general statistics; the “how,” “what,” and “where” of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Numbers of Olympic Events Held

There have been nearly 30 Summer Olympic Games since the competition’s revival at Athens 1896. The Winter Olympics has registered more than 20 events following its inception at Chamonix 1926.

The Paralympics, launched in Rome in 1960, has held 15 events and the Winter Paralympics has occurred on 12 occasions.

PyeongChang in South Korea was the 20th city to hold the Winter Olympics and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, became the 23rd city to host the Summer Olympics in 2016.

There have been three canceled Olympic events in total. The 1916 Berlin Games were canceled during World War I. The 1940 Tokyo Olympics was canceled as Japan prepared to enter World War II, and London’s 1944 event was also abandoned because of the Second World War.

Countries That Have Hosted The Olympics

The United States of America has hosted more Olympic events than any other nation, with 8 in total. France has hosted 5 Olympic events, and Germany, Greece, Japan, Italy, UK, and Canada are tied 3rd with 3 Olympic events.

European nations have hosted more Olympic events than any other continent (17 Summer Olympics, 13 Winter Olympics). North America has hosted the second-most Olympic events (7 Summer Olympics, 6 Winter Olympics), while Asia is 3rd on this list with 3 Summer Olympics and 3 Winter Olympics. Oceania has hosted the Summer Olympics 2 times in Australia.

Despite the inclusion of all 5 continents on the Olympic flag, several regions are yet to host an Olympic Games. Cape Town (South Africa) and Cairo (Egypt) have both previously failed in their bid to host the Olympics. In fact, Africa and the Middle East are two regions that have never held an Olympics. Istanbul (Turkey) is another Middle Eastern city desperate to host its first Olympics. Istanbul has bid unsuccessfully on five separate occasions.

South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean are three more regions waiting for their first Olympic Games. Karachi (Pakistan, South Asia) failed in its bid for the 1960 Olympics. Bangkok (Thailand) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) are two notable failed bidders located in Southeast Asia. San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Havana (Cuba) are the only two Caribbean bidders. Cuba has failed on three bids and Puerto Rico just once.

As for successful bidders, London (3), Los Angeles (2), Paris (2), and Athens (2) have hosted the most Summer Olympics. Tokyo will join this list when it hosts the Olympics for the second time. Lake Placid in the USA and St. Moritz have both hosted the Winter Games twice.

What do the stats tell us? Developed economies dominate Olympic hosting, with emphasis placed on economic factors, sponsorship potential, location topography/weather, and event security.

Participating Nations

Every Olympic event has seen a steady increase in participation over the last 100 years or so.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest of all events when it comes to participation. 207 nations participated in Rio 2016.

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics achieved record participation for a Winter Games, with 92 nations taking part. Yet, as a general theme, more nations participate in the Summer Games. Rio 2016 had a 77% higher participation rate than PyeongChang 2018, owing to the fact winter sports are not possible in many nations.

More nations participate in Summer and Winter Olympic events compared to Paralympic events, too. The Rio Olympics had 26% more participating nations than its Paralympic counterpart (159 competing nations), while South Korea’s 2018 Winter Olympics (92 nations) had a 60% difference in competing nations compared to its Paralympics (49 nations).

Top 15 Most Successful Olympic Nations

Which nations enjoy the most success at the Olympics?

On the whole, the United States team performs the best across both Summer and Winter Games. The United Kingdom also achieves a high medal count, as do Germany and France.

Some of these successful nations owe their success to their domination of the Winter Games.

Norway is the best Winter Olympics performer. Norway’s 368 total medals are enough to keep the nation ahead of the USA (305 winter medals) and Germany (240 winter medals).

Other winter specialists include Austria (232 winter medals), Sweden (158 winter medals), and Switzerland (153 winter medals).

The Overachievers

Some of these nations also feature on the list of Olympic overachievers, owing to their expertise in winter events.

Finland has claimed 101 golds and 303 total medals with a population of just 5.5 million. Hungary has won 491 Olympic medals with a population of 10 million people. That’s nearly 50 medals for every million people.

Other notable overachievers include the Bahamas, which has won 14 medals despite having one of the smallest populations on this list. Sweden, meanwhile, has a comparable record to Hungary – with nearly 500 medals and a 10 million-strong population.

Sports at the Summer Olympics

The Summer Olympics has seen significant growth in sports and events since 1896. The Olympic Games began with just 9 competitive disciplines. In 2016, Rio had 35 different sports – a three-fold growth.

Some “sports” have been dropped over time. Artists actually competed in the Olympics from 1912 to1948. Painters, sculptors, writers, and musicians could all win Olympic medals for their efforts.

Events at the Winter Olympics

Perhaps it is best to measure the growth of the Winter Olympics by the number of individual events. There has only been one additional sports discipline added to the Winter Games calendar since its inception in 1924. In 2018, PyeongChang featured 7 sports disciplines in total.

However, the number of different events at the Winter Olympics has increased exponentially.

The Winter Olympics began with 16 events in 1924. In 2018, that figure reached 102 – a record for the Winter Olympics and a 537% increase since 1924.

Summer Sport Dominators

We’ve mentioned countries that are really good at the Winter Games. Well, some countries are exceptional at a single sport.

All of the above nations won 50% or more of their medals in a single discipline at Rio 2016. Cuba, for example, is renowned for its boxers, while Jamaica dominated track & field events for yet another year.

Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran are known experts at wrestling, and Kenya and Ethiopia have produced exceptional long-distance runners for years.

Thailand and North Korea have weightlifting prowess, and lastly we have Malaysia. The nation has won the majority of its Gold medals in Badminton.

Winter Sport Dominators

This data, collected up until the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, shows the Winter Olympics nations that dominate a single sport.

Germany is the best at luge, earning 37% of all luge medals since 1980. Russia is, of course, fantastic at figure skating, hauling 34% of the sport’s medals over the same period. Evgeni Plushenko is one of a long list of successful Russian skaters, with 4 Olympic gold medals to his name.

Elsewhere, South Korea dominates short track disciplines, the USA has some of the best snowboarders, and the Netherlands has become famous for its speedskating stars in recent years.

How Far Does the Summer Olympic Torch Travel?

Although Amsterdam’s 1928 Olympic Games featured the first lighting of the Olympic torch, the 1936 Berlin Games had the first Olympic torch relay.

In 1936, the torch started in Olympia, covering 3,000 kilometers before finishing in Berlin for the Olympic Games.

The longest summer relay was Athens in 2004. The Olympic torch traveled across each habitable continent visiting major cities and former/elected Olympic host cities. Organizers wanted to highlight the global appeal of the Olympic Games, as well as its origins in Ancient Greece.

In 1956, Stockholm’s Equestrian Games led to an additional relay in Scandinavia. Dressage silver medallist Lis Hartel carried the Olympic torch along the streets of Copenhagen on horseback. The torch was then transported to Malmo, where 16 Swedish Equestrian clubs carried the flame to Stockholm.

Did you know? The Olympic torch has even traveled to space on several occasions, though, for safety purposes, it hasn’t ever been lit at these times.

How Far Does the Winter Olympic Torch Travel?

The first Winter Olympics torch relay was held at Oslo 1952. It was conducted by 94 participants, all traveling via skis. The relay lasted less than 2 days, with the torch covering just a little over 200km.

The longest winter relay was Sochi (2014), when the Olympic torch covered 77,000km. PyeongChang’s Olympics had the shortest torch relay of recent years, covering just 4,147km.

Top 10 Most Expensive Olympic Stadia

Olympic stadia typically host the opening and closing ceremonies of an Olympics, along with events like track & field and soccer. As you can see, they can rack up some hefty construction costs.

Top of the list is Japan’s freshly built National (or “Olympic”) Stadium. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions mean the venue won’t see any spectators at this year’s Olympics.

Sydney’s Stadium Australia is considered one of the greatest Olympic venues. Around 112,524 spectators packed into Stadium Australia for Day 11 of the 2000 Olympics – for track & field – which remains a single-event record attendance at an Olympics to this day.

PyeongChang’s 2018 Olympic stadium was temporary – an ingenious design that avoided any long-term upkeep costs. Athens’ stadium, meanwhile, was a contributor to the Greece Olympics’ soaring costs. Damages were eventually felt by Greece’s economy.

The Most Expensive Olympic Games

The Olympics can be a massively expensive event to organize. The true cost of the Olympic games is often not fully realized until years after the event, with venue costs and outstanding payments continuing over time.

Recent games have cost tens of billions of dollars. PyeongChang 2018 cost a grand total of $13 billion and is generally considered a huge success. PyeongChang cost four times less than the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, which is the most expensive Olympics to date.

Beijing was also a resounding success, yet racked up costs of up to $40 billion.

Many Olympic host nations set their budgets low but costs can quickly skyrocket. Rio 2016, for example, set out with an original budget of $8.8 billion, although the games ended up costing more than $4 billion more.

The Tokyo Games also looks set to miss its budget by a long shot, though, more on that a little bit later.

Tokyo 2020 Statistics

From planning to COVID-19 disruption: Tokyo 2020 is shaping up to be an awkward event in more ways than one. Here are some key statistics about Tokyo 2020.

Number of Sports at Tokyo 2020

There are 33 sports disciplines penciled in for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and a further 22 disciplines in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. So, what’s new for Tokyo 2020?

The Japanese people love baseball and softball. The two sports make a return to Tokyo 2020 after a 13-year hiatus from the competition. Surfing is another new Olympic sport. Surfing events will take place at Shidashita beach – some 40 miles (64 km) from Tokyo.

Karate, sport climbing, and skateboarding are three more hotly anticipated new sports featuring at this summer’s Olympic Games. Wrestling, meanwhile, was initially dropped from the Olympic roster but was quickly reinstated by the IOC. No events will be dropped for 2021.

Projected Number of Athletes at Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 looks set to come close to Rio’s record athlete participation. Around 15,491 total athletes are scheduled for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. That’s close to Rio’s total of 15,571, though Tokyo may just fall short of the record.

New Venues at Tokyo 2020

Japanese organizers have been busy building many fantastic new venues for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the biggest of which is the “Olympic Stadium Japan.” The old National Stadium has been demolished and rebuilt to make the Olympic Stadium (officially the “National Stadium”). This is where Japan’s opening and closing ceremonies will be held.

Other great new permanent venues include the Aquatics Centre, a $540 million project, and the impressive Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre ($65 million). On top of these 8 new permanent venues, Tokyo 2020 has also constructed 10 new temporary venues – including an urban sports park that will house extreme sports events.

Tokyo 2020 Projected Costs

Tokyo 2020 has gone wildly over budget. A combination of factors are leading to a bill that could rise to $26 billion. That’s nearly $19 billion more than what was originally planned.

The cost of Tokyo 2020’s new venues is one factor. Japan has paid over budget for practically every Olympic venue that’s been built, with its Japan National Stadium costing a whopping $1.4 billion. Tokyo’s Ariake Gymnastics Centre is another project set to smash past its expected cost, ending up $120m over budget. A labor shortage in Japan is also playing its part in rising costs.

Economically, Japan cannot consider canceling Tokyo 2020. Although some recent events (such as Wimbledon 2020) actually turned a profit from cancellation, Japan would recover just $2-3 billion if Tokyo 2020 were canceled. Not exactly small change, but nowhere near enough to cover the overall cost of the event.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Costs

Estimates made in 2020 chart the expected losses of postponing the games another year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preparing for the new event could ultimately cost around 400 billion Japanese Yen, with venue maintenance and general costs of the pandemic also having a significant impact.

The increased rent and upkeep costs from COVID-19 postponement have added $2.8 billion to the total cost so far, while COVID-19 precautions (tests, sanitizing, etc) are costing an extra $900 million. In total, estimates suggest that COVID-19 could cost Tokyo 2020 a total of around $5 billion.

So far, these estimates are holding true. COVID-19 precautions and additional venue rent and upkeep have already added well over $3.5 billion to Tokyo 2020’s cost.

Tokyo 2020 Estimated Revenue

Planned revenue figures of 721 billion Japanese Yen taken from December 2020 now look optimistic at best. Sponsorship and marketing money makes a huge portion of expected income, as do ticket sales.

However, the revenue potential of the games has been thrown into disarray. For a start, Japan will receive almost no share of Tokyo 2020’s broadcast rights – usually one of the biggest money-makers for host nations and the IOC. Japan’s recent announcement that there will be no spectators at the Tokyo games will also lead to an $800+ million loss in revenue.

Canceled warm-up events play a part in lost ticket revenues, too. Less-than-expected spectator engagement will damage consumer spending, as well as the marketing potential of Tokyo 2020 (as will the Japanese public’s general opposition to the games). Event-related spending could be down by as much as 90%.

Overall, a combination of these factors could result in a $23.1 billion loss for Japan. Ouch.

Public Opinion of Tokyo 2020

Japan’s hosting of the Olympic Games is one of the most contentious decisions of late. Japan has invested too much money to cancel the Games, yet Japanese citizens are overwhelmingly opposed to the Tokyo 2020 games going ahead this year.

Tokyo 2020 comes at a time when Japan is still under a wave of COVID-19 infections. Japan is in lockdown, and many citizens are now skeptical about the safety of hosting the Olympics.

28% of Japanese citizens say Tokyo 2020 should be canceled, another 33% believe Tokyo 2020 should be postponed another year.

Attendance at Tokyo 2020

Before Tokyo 2020, officials were hopeful of socially distanced crowds in venues.

Initially, the Japanese government set a 10,000 capacity limit for Olympic events, or 50% of the venue’s capacity (whichever is lower). Japanese officials also considered lowering this limit to 5,000 capacity, with unattended time slots. However, it now looks as though no spectators will attend Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo organizers already banned all overseas spectators on March 20th 2021. Japan is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and all Olympic events will now be conducted without a crowd. Victorious athletes will even be required to put their medals around their own neck at Tokyo 2020.

The Olympics’ low-attendance is desperately unfortunate. Tokyo’s plethora of excellent purpose-built stadiums and sports halls are perfect for welcoming victorious athletes, though, this is the way of the world in 2021.

How Many Athletes Are Vaccinated at Tokyo 2020?

The Japanese government is desperate to vaccinate Tokyo 2020 participants, as Japan suffers from high case rates and low vaccination rates. An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Olympics could be catastrophic.

The IOC wants athletes fully vaccinated before they arrive at Tokyo 2020. This is difficult considering the varying success of vaccine rollouts around the world. In the United States, 90% of the US Swimming team has been inoculated since June, but securing doses is difficult in less developed nations.

The IOC began a global effort to vaccinate athletes in time for the Olympics back in January. Working with the World Health Organization, the IOC distributed Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to Olympic teams from central areas in each country. Though, athletes are not forced to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

The plan looks set to work as officials predict high vaccination rates at the games. Vaccination is the best tool to quell the threat of COVID-19 for participants, staff, and volunteers. That being said, just 20% of the Japanese population have received a first vaccine as of early July 2021. Athletes, then, will have to stay in lockdown to avoid spreading COVID-19.

How Many Tests Will Be Administered at Tokyo 2020?

Around 200,000 COVID-19 tests will be conducted on athletes throughout the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Testing is the best way to avoid outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Olympic village. Finding sources early means athletes can isolate, stopping the spread of COVID-19 throughout the camp.

The IOC has set protocols in the case an athlete or Olympic team tests positive for COVID-19. Individual athletes will be forced to withdraw from the competition should they catch COVID-19. In most team sports, a player or group of players that test positive are eligible to be replaced with other players.

In knockout rounds for hockey, rugby, and handball, teams that have an outbreak are replaced by the last opponent they defeated. The same rules apply in individual events, though in tennis, badminton and boxing, athletes receive a “bye” when opponents test positive.

Hopefully we don’t see too many athletes heading home at Tokyo 2020.

Athlete Statistics

Talented athletes are what makes Olympic competitions so special. Here are some statistics on Olympians.

How Many Athletes in the Olympics?

As with national participation, the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games attract a greater number of athletes when compared to the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympic Games generally attract a greater number of athletes than the Paralympic Games.

For example, Rio 2016 Paralympics featured 4,333 athletes while 11,238 athletes attended Rio’s Olympics. That means the Rio Olympics had an 88% difference in athlete participation compared to its Paralympic counterpart.

Meanwhile, 2,833 athletes attended the PyeongChang Winter Olympics of 2018. That’s some 2,226 more participating athletes than PyeongChang’s Paralympics – an even greater percentage difference of 133%.

The Rio Olympics had a 119% difference in athlete participation compared to PyeongChang 2018 (11,238 vs. 2,833), while Rio’s Paralympics had a 154% difference compared to PyeongChang’s Paralympics in 2018.

The statistics show that Summer Games attract more athletes than Winter Games, a trend that remains consistent across Olympic and Paralympic events.

Who Are the Most Successful Olympians?

Who are the most successful Olympians of all time? Michael Phelps tops the list, with an astounding 23 Gold medals and 28 medals in total.

Phelps won an unprecedented 8 medals at Beijing 2008. In fact, swimmers feature heavily on this all-time list due to the high number of medals available in the sport. Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi, and Jenny Thompson are three more swimmers with a superb medal count. Still, Phelps has more than twice the gold medals as his nearest rival.

Spitz did, however, break the record for most Olympic golds at one Olympics (7 at Munich 1972). Meanwhile, Ray Ewry won all 8 of his gold medals in events that no longer exist at the Olympics (standing high jump, standing stripe jump, standing long jump).

Usain Bolt is perhaps the greatest Olympian of all time. Bolt won gold in the 100m sprint, 200m sprint, and 4x100m relay three games in a row. In 2008, he broke the world record across all three events and has broken 19 world records throughout his career.

Honorable mentions include the Soviet gymnasts Nikolai Andrianov (15 total medals, 3rd all-time) and Boris Shakhlin (13 medals), and Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci (9 medals) who scored an unprecedented perfect 10 from every judge at Montreal 1976.

Note: just 4 Olympians have won medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics: Eddie Eagan (United States), Jacob Tullin Thams (Norway), Christa Luding-Rothenburger (East Germany), and Clara Hughes (Canada).

Olympian Demographics

This chart shows the age range of Olympians up until the London 2012 Olympics. As you can see, the age range of Olympians can differ dramatically.

Archery, shooting, equestrian, and sailing events have a varied mix of ages. These sports are not as physically demanding as others, placing a greater emphasis on skill, technique, and coordination.

Explosive sports like swimming and athletics require competitors in peak physical condition, and this is generally true across most Olympic sports. 18-35 is the peak age range for an Olympic athlete.

Oldest and Youngest Competitors

The oldest and youngest competitors list highlights some interesting themes.

As mentioned, sports that require less athletic prowess and more experience often feature older competitors. Oscar Swahn is one such example. The Swedish shooter was nearly 73 years old when he took part in the Paris 1924 Olympics.

Conversely, the youngest competitors often feature in disciplines that require balance, flexibility, and elegance. In the Summer Olympics, the youngest competitors are gymnasts and in the Winter Olympics, the youngest competitors are figure skaters. In general, Winter Olympians fall into a smaller age range than Summer Olympians.

Oldest and Youngest Medalists

Many of the oldest and youngest Olympic contestants also feature on the list of youngest/oldest medal winners. It seems, outperforming your age bracket is a sure sign of class in any given sport.

Oscar Swahn became the oldest Summer Olympic male gold medalist when he won in shooting at 64 years old. Oscar won again at the age of 72, cementing his status as the oldest male medalist at the Olympics.

Linda Peyton Pollock is another athlete whose gold in archery was enough to make her the oldest woman medalist/gold medalist at the Summer Olympics. Carl August Kronlund is not only the oldest male competitor at the Winter Olympics, he’s the oldest medalist, too.

The only bone of contention is the youngest male gold medalist category at the Summer Olympics. A young boy from Paris is thought to have won Olympic gold in rowing when he replaced the Dutch teams’ coxswain who was deemed “too heavy” at 60kg. The boy was thought to be around the age of 7, yet there was no confirmation of this, or whether he actually received the medal for that matter.

This couldn’t happen in 2021, of course. The Youth Olympic Games was started in Singapore in 2010 to provide a multi-sport event for promising youth athletes around the world.

Athlete Accommodations: The Olympic Villages

Paris 1924 had the first Olympic Games athlete village (Le Village Olympique). Paris charged competitors 30 francs per person for a bed (daily). Food, laundry, electricity, and a shower cost a further 25 francs.

Since then, Olympic villages have come a long way. Standout accommodations include Beijing 2008 – which many athletes likened to large-scale university accommodation, and London 2012, with its array of modern amenities.

Another standout accommodation is Sydney’s eco-friendly Olympic village built for the 2000 Olympics. Upon completion, Sydney’s athlete village was the largest solar-powered suburb in the world.

Online Dating During the Games

Olympic villages place thousands of athletically primed men and women into a relatively small space. It’s no surprise, then, that Olympic athletes are known for their game off the pitch, as well as on it.

Olympic athletes are not shy about hooking up during the games. In fact, “raunchy Rio” saw huge increases in the use of online dating apps – a good barometer of increased sexual activity.

The 2018 Winter Olympics saw an even greater increase in Tinder use, and the app even provided Olympians with free premium accounts during the games. According to Tinder, bobsledders, hockey players, snowboarders, alpine skiers, and skeleton racers were the male athletes with the most “swipe-rights.” Meanwhile, snowboarders, alpine skiers, bobsledders, lugers, and freestyle skiers were the most-swiped women athletes.

Athlete Attraction

So why exactly are Olympians so sexually active during the games? They’re often quite attractive, for a start.

Olympians are in peak physical condition. Couple this with an increased calorie intake, increased adrenaline levels, endorphins, stress, and a close-knit Olympic village community – and you’ve got numerous reasons why athletes are making moves while at the Olympic Games.

According to Plenty Of Fish, people think figure skating and beach volleyball are the sexiest winter and summer sports. Curling and weight-lifting are generally considered the least attractive winter and summer sports respectively.

Safe Sex at the Games

The IOC is fully aware of this dating trend among athletes. Since Seoul 1988, the Olympics has supplied thousands of condoms to athletes in a bid to keep sex safe.

Sydney 2000 famously ran out of condoms. After an initial 70 thousand condoms were used by athletes, Sydney’s organizers had to order 20,000 more.

Beijing comically branded its condoms with the Olympic motto: “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” A slogan that takes on an added meaning in the bedroom.

Rio stands out for the highest number of supplied condoms. A whopping 450,000 condoms were provided to athletes at Rio 2016 – that’s a record 42 condoms for every Olympian!

Rio’s total is 3 times higher than London 2012’s 150,000 condoms. PyeongChang also distributed a lot of condoms for the Winter Olympics. PyeongChang’s total of 110,000 condoms meant athletes were given 37 condoms each.

Olympic Dating in 2021

Dating won’t be straightforward at Tokyo 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has made love difficult for many in recent years, and the Olympic Games will be no different.

Athletes will stay in single beds made out of cardboard – some sites claimed this was to discourage sex, but this was discredited by the Tokyo 2020 organizers. Athletes are also urged to adhere to strict social distancing rules as Tokyo aims to conduct a “safe and secure” event.

Tokyo 2020 officials received accusations of mixed-messaging following the announcement of their vast supply of 150,000 condoms for the games. Tokyo even responded by asking athletes to take condoms home rather than use them.

Audience Statistics

The Olympic and Paralympic Games receive the vast majority of their income from sponsorships, marketing, and broadcasting revenue – so the Olympic audience is really important.

A Global Event

The Olympics has gained in popularity exponentially since nations began to broadcast the games.

Over the last 20 years, the Olympics has become a truly global event. Sydney 2000 marked the first time the games were broadcast in every nation across the globe, and in 2006, the Winter Olympics achieved the same feat.

How Many People Watch the Olympics?

The Olympic Games have been televised since the 1936 Berlin Games. Rome 1960 marked the first occasion during which the Olympics was broadcast in the U.S.

The Olympics has received record viewership over the last few years. Beijing 2008 stands out as the most-watched Olympics of all time, attracting a total viewership of 4.4 billion. That’s more than half of the world’s population.

Athens, Rio, and London 2012 are not far behind. The stats also indicate that the Summer Games receive better viewership than the Winter Games, perhaps owing to its popularity, higher quantity of sporting events and increased broadcasting hours.

Streaming Online vs. TV (A Changing Trend)

Recent statistics on cumulative audience reach tell a different story.

Streaming will become the dominant method of watching the Olympics in years to come. On-demand digital video has surged into mainstream popularity in recent times, and stats show that viewers are continually choosing to watch the Olympics online.

Rio’s TV audience reach fell 11% compared to the London 2012 Olympics, meanwhile, unique digital viewership grew from 1.2 to 1.3 billion and video views rose a staggering 132%.

The same trend is visible in Winter Olympic viewing statistics. PyeongChang’s TV viewership fell, however digital viewership and online video views both more than doubled compared to Sochi 2014.

Expect this to continue at Tokyo 2020. In an amdocs study, 28% of U.S. consumers say they will watch the games via streaming. Another 16% will watch Tokyo 2020 on social media, and 15% via on-demand channels.

Which Sports Do People Want to Watch the Most?

U.S. adults are most interested in watching gymnastics, swimming, and beach volleyball at the Tokyo2020 Olympics. Athletics came fifth, while baseball and surfing are the two most popular new events for 2021.

The results are fairly consistent with global viewing hours from previous Olympics, even though different nations often enjoy different sports.

Track & field’s 2.3 billion viewing hours at London 2012 make it the most viewed sport of all. Swimming came second, with 1.5 billion total viewing hours and gymnastics came third, with 1.442 billion viewing hours.

Sailing (87 million hours), trampoline (67 million hours), and modern pentathlon (32 hours) received the worst viewership of London 2012, – though, there’s a direct correlation between viewership and the number of events. Athletics held 47 events at London 2012. Trampoline and pentathlon held 3.

Who Wants to Watch the Olympics?

What are the demographics of your average Olympic viewer? Quite wide-ranging, as you can imagine, given the popularity of the games.

More than 60% of U.S. adults plan to watch at least some of Tokyo 2020. Millennials make up the most avid Olympic viewers; 30% of them plan to watch “a lot.”

Across the board things are fairly even, though, with Gen Zers having the smallest expected viewership demographic. Only 52% think they will watch the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, less than any other age group.

The Biggest Olympic Attendances

Atlanta currently holds the Guinness World Record for the highest in-person attendance at an Olympic Games. 8.3 million people bought tickets to watch the games, just beating London 2012’s figure of 8.2 million tickets sold.

Calgary 1988 is still the Winter Games with the highest volume of tickets sold and, in keeping with viewership stats, the Winter Games generally have lower attendance than the Summer Games.

Athens 2004 had the worst ticket sales of any Summer Games in the last 40 years while Albertville 1992 and Turin 2006 are two of the lowest attended Winter Games of recent memory.

Most Viewed Summer Opening Ceremonies

Opening ceremonies kick Olympic events off in style. Olympic hosts invest a lot of money to make sure they put on a fantastic show, so let’s take a look at the most-viewed Summer Olympic opening ceremonies of recent years.

U.S. viewership figures rank Atlanta 1996 and London 2012 as the two most-viewed opening ceremonies of recent years.

London 2012 is the most-viewed opening ceremony audience of all time, attracting an estimated global audience of 900 million people. It featured James Bond actor Daniel Craig, and a comical scene in which an actor dressed as Queen Elizabeth II parachuted into London’s Olympic Stadium.

Most Viewed Winter Opening Ceremonies

Recent Winter Olympics opening ceremonies have also garnered massive viewership – almost as much as their summer counterparts.

Vancouver 2010 stands out as the top-viewed Winter Olympic opening ceremony. Sochi and PyeongChang enjoyed huge U.S. viewership, too. Sochi 2014 is the only non-U.S. ceremony to break the 30 million viewers mark on this list.

Global Sponsorship

“The Olympic Partner” (TOP) sponsorship is the International Olympic Committee’s premium sponsorship program.

Olympic sponsorship works in a four-tier system with each level of sponsorship providing greater access and exposure for brands. TOP sponsorship is “worldwide” sponsorship, the highest level of Olympic sponsorship.

TOP sponsors experience an increased number of global marketing opportunities as well the rights to certain Olympic intellectual properties. This means Coca-Cola could market an Olympic-themed drinks can.

TOP sponsors also have the opportunity to showcase their services. Alibaba, for example, provided advanced ticketing solutions at PyeongChang 2018.

Businesses can bid to become a sponsor for each four-yearly Olympic period. As of 2020, sponsorship for the Summer and Winter Olympics and Paralympics are included in the same deal.

A select number of global partners currently pay a premium for worldwide sponsorship – normally between $100-300 million per cycle. Currently, there are 14 global partners including Coca-Cola, Intel, and Airbnb.

TOP sponsorship looks set to become even more expensive over the next decade. The Olympics is now confirmed in two global marketing hubs (Paris, France and Los Angeles, USA) which will drive up bidding.

Domestic Sponsorship

While there are more than a dozen TOP sponsors, around 70 additional businesses pay the IOC across the remaining three tiers of sponsorship.

Gold sponsors, official sponsors, and domestic sponsors make up the next three categories of sponsorship – each one less costly than the last. Domestic sponsorship features sponsors from the host nation – another important source of revenue for the host nation’s Organizing Committee and the IOC.

The host nation’s OCOG (Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) currently takes home around $2 billion per four-yearly sponsorship cycle, though, this could rise as sponsorship costs swell.

The IOC Is A Non-Profit

The IOC is a non-profit organization. That means almost every piece of advertising or broadcasting revenue gets redistributed to Olympic Organising Committees, sporting institutions, athletes, and grassroots coaching.

10% of total revenue is reinvested in the IOC. This money is used to develop sport and operations of the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC’s revenue distribution clearly works: IOC scholarship students won 13 medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

Inspiring Future Athletes

The Olympics inspire the next generation of athletes.

While the IOC invests in grassroots sports, kids watching the Olympics can be inspired by the unbelievable feats of achievement seen at the Olympic Games.

More than 50% of 11-15 years olds surveyed in the UK felt inspired by the London 2012 Olympics – a year that forged national icons such as Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah.

The stats show that the Olympics is crucial for the younger audience. The Games keep kids active and help create the next generation of potential athletes.

Progress and the Paralympics

Significant progress has been made at the Summer and Winter Paralympics since Sir Ludwig Guttman’s first iteration of a Paralympics Games during Rome 1960. Here are some stats that show Paralympic progress.

Rise in Number of Paralympic Participants

The Summer and Winter Paralympics have seen a huge growth in participation since their inception in 1960 and 1976 respectively.

The Summer Paralympics now has 591% more nations than its first event, and nearly 1000% more athletes.

The Winter Paralympics has enjoyed a 200% increase in participating nations and a 186% increase in athlete participation.

The stats point to tangible progress among the Paralympics community and disability sports as a whole.

More nations have joined the Paralympics as countries adopt a greater understanding of physical, mental, and sensorial disabilities. With greater opportunities to play disability sports and a larger number of Paralympic events, more athletes join the Games every time they are held.

Significant Audience Growth

The Paralympics is attracting record audiences in recent years, signaling a growing interest and appreciation for disability sports.

Athens in 2004 reached a total of 1.85 billion people. The Rio 2016 Paralympics, on the other hand, reached a staggering 4.11 billion people.

That makes Rio 2016 the most popular Paralympics in history. It also puts the event on par with several Olympic events. 4.1 billion viewers is not far behind the Beijing Olympics’ record total viewership of 4.4 billion.

In fact, some Rio 2016 Paralympic events attracted bigger crowds than the Olympics. The Rio Paralympics track and field venue, the Olympic Stadium, sold 46,000 tickets on a single day. 170,000 people attended Paralympic events at the Olympic Park on Saturday 10th September 2016.

Rio overtook Beijing as the second most-attended Paralympics, while it tops the list for total audience reach.

Growing Number of Paralympic Sports

New Paralympic events are being created and added to the calendar as the profile of disability sports continually grows.

In many cases, new disability sports do not resemble their Olympic equivalent. Wheelchair rugby, for example, uses a different ball to its Olympic equivalent and takes place on a hard court.

The development across several sports also means Paralympic athletes are continually pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. The Seoul 1988 Paralympics produced 971 World Records and 156 Paralympic Records.

Top Paralympic Sports

Top Paralympic sports include swimming, athletics, cycling, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby.

Millions of viewers also tune in to watch the opening and closing ceremonies of Paralympic events.

Paralympic Sponsorship

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC), essentially the corresponding Paralympic committee to the IOC, has seen huge increases in marketing, broadcasting, and sponsorship revenue over the last 8 years.

This is a key effect of the growing public interest in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

Sponsorship revenue is now combined between the IOC and the IPC until 2032. Before this change, however, the Paralympics did attract interest from big brands. 5 out of 13 TOP sponsors in 2018 supported the Paralympic Games as well as the Olympic Games.

A Growing Budget

The IPC’s budget has also grown dramatically as interest and sponsorship revenue has increased. Since 2008, the IPC has quadrupled its revenue, rising from €6.3 billion to €24.1 billion in 2018.

Of course, like the IOC, the IPC is a non-profit organization. That means every penny of revenue is reinvested in disability athletes, facilities, and grassroots sports. As the IPC continues to grow, exposure and funding for disability sports will continue to grow with it.

The Paralympics is a Driver for Change

German-born British neurologist, Sir Ludwig Guttman, founded the Paralympic movement in 1960 following the success of the Stoke Mandeville Games 12 years prior. He would’ve turned 122 on July 3rd, 2021, should he still be alive. Yet, Guttman’s legacy lives on to this day.

uge progress has been made in the public perception and representation of not only disabled athletes, but the disabled community more generally. In this regard, the Paralympic Games are a driver for change – and London 2012 is often considered a turning point for disability representation. “The greatest Paralympics of all time,” as many people have called it.

This progress is more visible now than ever.

Olympics for Human Rights

The Olympics was not always the beacon of inclusion that it is today. It was originally formed as an event of “manly virtues,” while racial tensions and racist ideologies often underpinned narratives in earlier iterations of the Games. Watching the Olympics break free from old-fashioned beliefs has become significant in a wider fight for equal rights.

Recent changes to the Olympic oath highlight the games’ status as a global ambassador for civil rights. Two important words have been added to the oath’s first line: “inclusion” and “equality.”

Growth in Women Participants at the Summer Games

The Olympics was created as a celebration of male achievement, however, women were already allowed to compete by the second modern Olympic Games.

Just 2% of participants were women in 1900. The percentage of women has grown continuously over the last century or so, with women participants reaching a record 44% of total participants at the Rio 2016 games.

The Olympics is still trying to push boundaries for inclusion. Tokyo looks set to host the highest percentage share of women athletes to date. 49% of joining athletes will be women at Tokyo 2020.

The biggest change in the number of women athletes occurred following 1992, with around 700 more women athletes joining in 1996.

Saudi Arabia sent its first woman athlete to the London 2012 games. 2012 also marked the first Olympics in which every participating nation sent at least one woman athlete.

Growth in Women Participants at Winter Games

The Winter Olympics has seen major growth in women participants, too. Just 11 women athletes turned up for the 1924 Winter Games. In 2018, 1169 women athletes attended the Winter Olympics. That’s a 10,500% increase.

The 1998 Winter Olympics had 265 additional women athletes compared to the Games before, the biggest increase across two separate Winter Olympic events.

First Women’s Sports

Tokyo 2020 will have 46 women’s disciplines, which is one more than the men’s competition.

This includes sports like weightlifting, wrestling, and shooting. These events have historically resisted women participants, reserved as a display of “manly virtues” in the eyes of the IOC and Pierre de Coubertin. Their inclusion now signals progress at the IOC and in society as a whole.

In 1900, women competed in just 5 sports: Tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism, and golf.

These sports were considered to be “ladylike,” so organizers were fine with women taking part. Though, women were not allowed to compete in a long list of other athletic events.

Fast-forward to 2021, and women are competing in more sports disciplines than men.

LGBTQ+ Athletes at the Olympics

The number of openly “out” athletes is increasing every year. LGBTQ+ athletes are feeling more comfortable expressing their gender identity, though there is still work to be done.

Rio 2016 marked the most significant number of openly LGBTQ+ athletes to date. There were a total of 56 “out” athletes from 11,238. That’s over five times more out athletes than Beijing, eight years earlier.

Though we won’t know true figures until the Games begin, at least 157 openly LGBTQ+ athletes are expected to attend Tokyo 2020, according to Outsports. That’s a huge jump from Rio’s 2016 total of 56.

An openly gay couple, Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud, will even compete in the equestrian together.

That being said, work needs to continue to make sure athletes feel comfortable coming out. There are likely many more athletes who are not yet ready to openly disclose their gender identity.

Tokyo for Trans Athletes

Tokyo 2020 will likely become the first Olympic Games to feature an openly transgender athlete, in what could become a watershed Olympic Games for the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s worth noting that the IOC has allowed transgender athletes to compete at the Olympic Games since 2004. Athletes that have transitioned from female to male are allowed to compete without restriction, whereas athletes that have transitioned from male to female must pass a minimum testosterone test for a full year prior to the Olympic Games.

Laurel meets all of the minimum testosterone levels set by the IOC. She transitioned in 2012 and competed in international weightlifting for the first time in 2017.

This means she’s cleared to compete and Laurel’s inclusion is a big win for the Trans community.

Black History Makers at the Olympics

Racial politics have been tied into the Olympic Games ever since their beginnings.

The “anthropology days” sideshow of the St. Louis 1904 Olympics is one such example. U.S. scientists conducted “sporting experiments” on ethnic minorities to test their racist theorem: “‘Primitive’ civilizations are natural athletes.” Such a preposterous theory was quickly disproved and the event turned into nothing short of a total farce.

It’s within this context that Black achievement at the Olympics has been so important, and so impactful. Take Jesse Owens. The U.S. track and field star won 4 Olympic gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics – an event conceived as a marketing tool for the Nazi regime. Jesse Owens disproved the Nazi’s “white supremacist” ideologies as people from around the world watched on.

Some Sports Are Still Catching Up

Some Olympic sports must still become more inclusive. This is particularly true for many “equipment” sports or (traditionally) white middle-class sports – ethnic minorities do not have the same socio-economic access and, thus, do not get the same Olympic representation.

Equestrianism, skiing, rowing – these are just a small sample of the sports that predominantly feature white athletes.

Swimming is another such sport. Swimmers need access to multi-million-dollar facilities and coaching to train – funding that ethnic minorities in poor neighborhoods do not usually receive.

Recent evidence suggests the swimming community craves greater inclusion. FINA – the International Swimming Federation, recognized by the IOC – recently rejected the use of swim caps designed specifically for African hair, stating that the caps did not follow “the natural form of the head.” However, FINA is now reviewing its decision following widespread backlash.

Controversy at the Olympics

Controversial issues often take center stage when the Olympic games come round the corner.

Environmental groups critique every facet of the event’s preparation, the host nation’s human rights record is analyzed extensively, and there is always the threat of other newsworthy incidents such as scandals and hacks.

Tokyo 2020 has not been able to dodge controversy. Officials and directors have been forced to resign following sexist and derogatory remarks – most recently, one of the composers of the opening ceremony stepped down after admitting to having bullied previous classmates, some of whom had disabilities.

Opposing Teams: Olympics vs Sustainability

In a Nature study, each Olympics’ sustainability is ranked out of 100 based on ecological, social, and economic factors.

Ecological factors include new construction, visitor footprint, and event size. Social factors include public approval, safety, and rule of law. Economic factors include budget balance, financial exposure, and long-term viability. So, what progress in sustainability is being made at the Olympics? Not much, judging by recent research…

The Olympics claims to be a leading light of sustainability, yet, recent games have been the least sustainable in decades. Why is that? The economic spending involved in recent games is one issue. Tokyo could end up costing upwards of $30bn and is already $16bn over its original budget. That’s not sustainable at all.

In Tokyo’s case, public approval is also lacking as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. People are often displaced to build Olympic venues, too. Meanwhile, environmental groups have criticized the ecological credentials of Tokyo 2020. All of this in an Olympics where beds are made of cardboard, podiums use recycled plastic, and medals are constructed from recycled metals.

The construction of multiple large venues is a troublesome ecological issue for any Olympic Games. Tokyo’s use of plywood, in particular, is cited as a problem, with much of it allegedly sourced from rainforests, according to the Rainforest Action Network. Japan’s seafood industry is questionable as well – Japanese suppliers are not required to carry through with sustainability proposals to supply the Tokyo 2020 Games.

On the other side of the coin is Salt Lake City – the most sustainable Olympics. A large reason for Salt Lake City’s sustainability success is its relatively low cost. The 2002 Olympics cost just $2.5 billion.

Olympics-Driven People Displacement

Host cities tend to embark on urban renewal projects, which may force people out of their homes to make way for shiny new venues. Invariably, poor people often suffer when Olympic events come to town. For this reason, the Games have been seen to promote attempts to gentrify certain communities.

Seoul started this trend in 1988 when the military moved nearly three-quarters of a million people out of their homes. Two more Olympics stick long in the memory for the same reason. Rio 2016 displaced 60,000 people from neighboring favelas. Much of Rio’s budget was even spent on fortifying a barrier between the Maré favelas and the nearby “Red Line” access road to the airport.

Meanwhile, China displaced 1.5 million people for its 2008 Olympics – a record for any Olympic Games.

That’s not to say the Olympic Games can’t be beneficial to local communities. Conversely, the Olympic Games bring new infrastructures, such as roads, transport links, and improved housing.

Affordable housing was included in London 2012’s regeneration of the Olympic Village, for example, while Brazil heavily invested in its metro system for the 2016 Games. Beijing spent over half of its $40 billion budget on rail links, roads, and airports too. This is in addition to all of the benefits that new sporting facilities and venues provide.

Big Olympic Scandals

Three institutional scandals stick in the memory from recent Olympics: The IOC is by no means squeaky clean, and neither are some of the nations that compete.

After winning the bid to host the Olympics in 2002, it soon came to light that IOC officials – those involved in the IOC’s decision-making process – had been gifted special “sweeteners” from Salt Lake City.

This included tuition fees, direct payments, and land purchases on behalf of fraudulent IOC members and their families.

Even in 2021, there remains controversy over Olympic bidding. The IOC has all but confirmed Brisbane as the Olympic host for 2032 after an offer the IOC found “somehow irresistible, ” in the words of the IOC’s president.

This is contentious, given we are 11 years away from the 2032 Olympic Games. Normally, the IOC schedules site selection just 7 years before an Olympic Games. Nonetheless, the issue will be debated at Tokyo 2020.

The 2002 Games were not short of controversy themselves. After a tense final between Russia and Canada in the figure skating pairs, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne claimed she had been pressured into scoring Russia as the winner by her boss. The event was part of a vote-trading scandal that ultimately led to reform in the games.

The most recent Olympic scandal on this list occurred before the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Following reports of a mass-doping program in Russia, the IOC tested every Russian athlete set to compete. Ultimately, 116 athletes were banned, and Russia was forbidden from competing for several years.

The Biggest Hack in Olympic History

The Olympic Destroyer hack was one of the biggest cyberattacks in Olympic history. Malware shut down over 300 systems in PyeongChang’s data centers, which affected a host of other Wi-Fi services for the first 12 hours of the games.

The attacks started during PyeongChang’s opening ceremony, crippling the event’s entire system.

The event staff’s domain controllers were initially paralyzed. Security experts had to take PyeongChang’s system offline to identify and eradicate the malicious files on their system.

Cybersecurity experts eventually discovered a file called “winlogon.exe” to be the culprit, with state-sponsored Russian hackers suspected as the source.

This isn’t the first time an Olympic Games has been cyberattacked. London 2012 was hit with numerous intrusion attempts and at Rio 2016, athletes’ personal data was leaked.

Russia is thought to be seeking revenge for its competition ban and hackers could target Tokyo 2020. The UK’s National Cyber Security Center recently revealed that Russia was already planning cyber-attacks before the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed in 2020.

Following PyeongChang 2018 and recent reports of Russian activity, Tokyo officials anxiously await another hacking attempt in 2021.

Are you concerned about your cybersecurity too? You’ll find a variety of safety and security resources here on the CyberGhost Privacy Hub.

The Bottom Line – Enjoy the Games

So here’s our long list of 60+ Olympics and Paralympics statistics. We’ve covered every base to keep you in the know for Tokyo 2020.

At its best, the Olympics is a truly legendary festival of competition, dedication, and human achievement. However, the Olympics’ motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger” can also be symbolic of society’s flaws.

The Olympics attract such global interest, and it’s crucial that the competition continues to champion equal opportunity and integrity. With this in mind, Tokyo 2020 might be the glimmer of hope everyone needs in 2021.

All in all, the Olympics is a spine-tingling competition and we can’t wait till Tokyo 2020 gets underway. Armed with your newfound Olympic knowledge, hopefully, you can’t wait either.

CyberGhost VPN’s Transparency Report

April, May, and June 2021

Since 2011, we have been publishing our quarterly Transparency Report – a first in the VPN industry. A lot has changed in the tech world since we published our first report a decade ago, with online surveillance slowly becoming normalized, and data-mining a multi-billion-dollar industry.

You can see this worrying trend of data collection in our reports. Now that our report for Q2 2021 is live, we can see the requests for user data we registered.

Our Q2 Numbers

44,995

This encompasses the number of DMCA complaints, malicious activity flags, and police requests we received for April, May, and June 2021.

Here’s a breakdown.

This marks a shocking 87% increase in overall requests compared to our Q1 report.

And with the exception of police requests, there’s a noticeable increase culminating in the month of May.

As of June, the situation seems to have gone back to normal. However, this might just be a coincidence. In many countries COVID restrictions loosened around June, allowing people to go on well-deserved vacations, away from any online spaces.

While the increase marks a worrying disregard for online privacy, it’s been business as usual for us. We don’t keep any records of user activity, and therefore, have not complied with any of these requests. Due to our strict No Logs policy, we don’t have any user data to hand over.

Furthermore, our headquarters in Bucharest, Romania place us under a very privacy-friendly jurisdiction. We are under no legal obligation to collaborate with international surveillance alliances like the 5 and 14 Eyes.

DMCA Complaints

27,602

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and refers to copyright infringement claims. Any copyright holder or entertainment agency can file a claim when they find their materials has been shared online using one of our IP addresses.

April
May
June
12,032
13,207
2,363

DMCA complaints make over half of all the requests we received in these past three months. More specifically, DMCA requests make up 61% of all requests.

But there seems to be a two-fold increase in DMCA complaints when compared to the beginning of the year.

Malicious Activity Flags

17,384

We receive this type of request when authorities signal to us that there are malicious activities originating from one or more of our IP addresses. This can include DDoS attacks, botnets, automated mass spam emails, suspicious login attempts, and phishing scams.

April
May
June
4,648
10,100
2,636

This makes up 38% of all the inquiries we received.

Compared to our Q1 report we noticed a massive spike in cases starting in April.

Police Requests

9

If a criminal investigation leads to one of our IP addresses or our datacenters, we receive this type of request. Various law enforcement agencies can file a request, generally asking for logs and other details that can aid their case.

April
May
June
4
4
1

As usual, this type of request makes less than 1% of all incoming inquiries. The situation was similar in our previous reports as well.

If anything, we received far less police requests than we did during the previous quarter.

You Need a No-Logs VPN

The digital landscape continues to change in 2021 as the COVID pandemic saw many of us moving more of our lives into the online world with working from home and shopping online, specifically.

According to a recent study by consulting firm McKinsey, 20-25% of the workforce in developed countries now work remotely. This marks a fourfold increase compared to pre-pandemic when teleworking was primarily represented by the freelancer community. E-commerce sites also thrived with 32.4% more online sales in 2020 compared to previous years.

Going digital made our daily activities easier during the pandemic. But putting our data out there has its trade-offs. Data breaches, ransomware attacks, and identity theft continue to be a massive problem that looms over business, government, and personal accounts. The second quarter of 2021 was a busy time in the cybersecurity sector with:

      • 1,098,897,134 exposed records in April
      • 115,861,330 exposed records in May
      • 9,780,931 exposed records in June

In total that amounts to 1,224,539,395 breached records. And this is just from the reported incidents. Ransomware is reportedly the main cause in these data breaches, account for one in three incidents. No one type of business or enterprise is safe from these attacks, since malicious parties targeted all of them – from popular fast-food chains, like McDonalds Taiwan, to social media giant Facebook, as well as dating app Manhunt, cloud infrastructure provider DigitalOcean, and Japanese government agencies after Fujitsu, were all hacked.

Now, more than ever you need a reliable tool to safeguard private data. And a virtual private network is just the right tool for you.

A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic. It’s an easy way to secure your connection and hide your online activity from prying eyes.

And with our strict No Logs policy, we can safeguard your data and make sure you’re the only one who knows anything about your browsing habits. Your personal information is protected by our AES 256-bit military-grade encryption so that no one, not even us, can ever access your records. Not to mention that with CyberGhost VPN you can protect up to seven devices at the same time.

 

Until next time, stay safe and secure!

What is Spam? How to Stop it and Prevent Spam

Did you know that over 122 billion unsolicited and irrelevant emails are sent out every single day? That’s right, nearly 85% of all emails that are sent out each and every single day are spam emails. And while you’ve probably learned to live with them (or your email has a decent spam tracker), they are quite troublesome, and you shouldn’t let it overtake your inbox.

Here’s some good news – you can fight back against spam. It is possible to stop your inbox from being spammed. Let’s get into how to stop and prevent spam.

But First – What Exactly is Spam?

You probably already have an idea of what is spam – they are unsolicited, unwanted emails sent out to an indiscriminate list of recipients. Often, it is sent for commercial purposes and while not illegal, it is often viewed as an unethical business practice. However, cybercriminals have also jumped on the spam bandwagon and send out these emails as malicious attempts to access your computer data. And because these malicious emails are sent by botnets (networks of infected computers), it can be difficult to trace the original of the spam mail.

But email spam is not the only type of spam you need to worry about. internet spam is also on the rise. Here are some examples to be aware of.

How Does Spam Work?

Your email address may be public on various profiles, social media, or company websites. Scary but true.

Here are the most common techniques spammers use to get your email:

Email Harvesting

Email harvesters collect names from websites, newsgroups, or other services, looking for users who identify themselves by email address. Imagine an algorithm that captures the “@” symbol. Harvesters can find thousands of emails in seconds.

Third-party Sources

It is always important to pay attention when you sign up for a website or a service. Many companies share your data (including your email) with third parties. An important tip here would be to always read the privacy policy carefully before giving your personal details, including your email. It will give you a clear idea of what the company does with your information.

Data Breaches

Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Marriott – these are just a few of the most notorious names that all suffered from major data breaches. After cybercriminals get a hold of your personal details, they often sell them to spammers too.

Fake Websites

Sometimes, scammers create fake websites trying to lure victims into various sweepstakes or contests. To participate, you will have to leave your details, including your email address. In just a few short days, your inbox will be filled with spam.

Wild Guessing

Some spammers rely on unsophisticated and simple methods to get email addresses. Through web scraping, they get common usernames and combine them with email domains.

6 Common Types of Spam Email

While most spam emails are strictly for advertising, others can be sent out for nefarious purposes. Sometimes, spam emails are quite dangerous. They are used to spread malware, defraud recipients, and commit malicious acts. That is why you should always be aware of suspicious attachments or links.

Here are the most common types of spam emails you might find in your inbox:

1. Commercial Advertisements

This type of spam message is common and technically not illegal. They relate to all sorts of products and services that promise a quick solution to a problem and many times they also offer a deal or a discount code.

Typical email subject lines of this kind of spam are:

      • ‘How you can cure diabetes in 1 month’!
      • ‘Buy this and you’ll lose weight in 3 days’!

2. Antivirus and Malware Warnings

Antivirus or malware infection are a frequent spam tactic. These emails warn you about a computer virus or malware infection and offer a solution that is guaranteed to fix the threat, usually by clicking a link or downloading a file.

But these links grant attackers’ access into your system and the attached files cover dangerous malware. If the email does not come from your antivirus program or any other security provider you use, you need to be cautious.

3. Email Spoofing

Email spoofing or phishing email scams are another form of dangerous spam. Spammers impersonate as representatives of legitimate companies and include the company’s logo and text formatting. Their messages are usually suggesting a state of urgency, such as account expiration.

Always check if the sender’s email address is legitimate and look for typos, misspellings, or poor English writing. These are standard traits of phishing emails.

4. Sweepstake Prizes

Spammers sometimes send emails claiming that you have won a sweepstake or a prize. They ask you to reply to collect your prize quickly. Additionally, they might require you to click on a link or fill in your personal information.

Unless you signed up for a competition, you cannot randomly win something. So, as tempting as it sounds, do not fall for these scams. Especially, do not click any links or reply to these emails as you could again end up installing malware on your device.

5. Money Scams

Whether it is the typical Nigerian prince scheme or a fake charity or donation scam, these kinds of emails are attackers’ way of stealing your money. Their claims could be raising money for hungry children in Africa or families who have suffered losses due to a natural disaster.

Relying on people’s goodwill, the email messages require you to either send your bank account information or to make a wire transfer. In general, you should never ever send out your personal bank details over an email.

Here is how a typical Nigerian email scam looks like:

6. Adult Content Spam

Pornography is a lucrative business. So, spammers widely send malicious emails with erotic messages or videos. Porn and dating websites send these spam emails as part of their affiliate marketing programs and advertise their services.

Even if you never visited this kind of websites, you could still get this kind of spam in your inbox. Spammers have either bought your email from a mailing list or a company whose service you bought shared your data with an affiliate company.

How to Recognize Spam

Most times, you can recognize spam from the subject line. Spammers use headers such as ‘RE,’ Hi or Unpaid Invoice. They either sound alarming or too good to be true like:

      • A promise of free prizes, gift cards, or coupons
      • An offer to sign you up for a low or no-interest credit card
      • A promise to help you pay off your student loan debt

Examples of common subject lines of spam emails:

      • $50 gift card for Amazon. Complete our quick survey to see if you qualify!
      • Good news! You can still visit Cuba and save!
      • URGENT REQUEST! Termination of your email account!

Another important detail you should keep in mind is not to confuse email marketing messages with spam. Email marketers have received your permission to send you emails. You either subscribed or accepted to receive newsletters or notifications.

You may have forgotten about some of them. We suggest that you create a list of your subscriptions. Clean your inbox and look for messages like “You have successfully subscribed to (…)”. Those would be your email marketing messages, and the rest is spam.

Is Spam Legal?

The simple answer to if spam is legal is “yes.” However, the spam business is hard to regulate. That is because you are not just getting spam from local advertisers but also international companies.

In the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act (passed in 2003) states that unsolicited commercial emails must be marked accordingly. The act requires that such messages include the sender’s valid postal address and a means for the recipient to opt-out. Violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is punishable by fines or even imprisonment.

By comparison, in Europe, many countries have drafted and ratified their own legislation concerning spam distribution. The European Council compelled many EU countries, as well as the USA and Australia, to adopt anti-spam legislation and find solutions to better combat and respond to this practice.

While commercial spam emails are legal, malicious spam that includes phishing attacks and malware spreading are considered felonies. Punishment for people convicted of phishing or malware schemes could be a year or more in prison and can also lead to a significant fine.

Other Types of Spam

Online Clickbait

While surfing the internet, it is common to see many sensationalized headlines that seem too good to be true and are just waiting for you to click on them. Some examples include:

      • ‘This cream will make you look 10 years younger.’
      • ‘7 reasons why celebrities bought this product.’
      • ‘This is how you’ll earn $5,000 a month.’

These headlines rely on luring victims through curiosity or emotion. If you click, the website hosting the link earns revenue from advertisers. But, as you know, the actual content is usually of questionable quality and accuracy. Once you end up visiting such a page, you will notice a sketchy pattern: you either have to keep scrolling and click on the “next page” at least 20 times to read an entire article or story.

Likejacking (Clickjacking)

This is a click scam you will encounter on Facebook. Scammers share an enticing or convincing video, image, or discount deal and exploit the ‘Like’ button. They trick users into posting a Facebook status update for a specific website. Users believe they are just visiting a page. But once they hit the ‘Like’ button, it will generate a script in the background, further spreading the scam. The more people that like the post, the more it spreads.

Security experts argue this trick allows scammers to access a Facebook account or a user’s personal information. This allows them to install a virus or a spyware program on your computer.

Mobile Spam

You’ve probably have been taken by surprise by a fishy text message that made you think: ‘What is this?’

Mobile phone spam (AKA cell phone spam, SMS spam, or m-spam) is also quite common. Instead of emails, spammers deliver text messages via SMS. Apart from making you wonder how a stranger got your number, sometimes you may be charged for these received texts. And if you reply, you could be charged even more.

Most often, cell phone spam covers one of these situations:

      • A problem with your payment information
      • A fake invoice with a request to authorize a purchase
      • A bogus package delivery notification

Whenever you get SMS spam, ignore it, or, better yet, just delete it.

Also called blog spam or comment spam, you might have come across link spam while checking online discussion forums or blog comments. They are links published out of context that spammers spread to promote web pages and achieve more backlinks. The more links, the higher the web page will be ranked in web searches.

How to Stop Spam

The easiest thing to do: every time you get a spam email, mark it as spam and delete the email before even opening it. You should not open it or to click the ‘unsubscribe’ button. If you do this, the spammer will know your email address is valid, and you will receive even more spam emails.

The best way to handle spam and other forms of unwanted email is to simply mark them as “Spam” or “Junk” (depending on which word your email provider uses) and then delete them without even opening them. Your email provider can identify them and better deal with them in the future.

If you want to know how to prevent spamming, there are a few simple tricks:

  1. Try not to give away your personal or business email address when you register for online services, such as applications. You can choose to set up an email address specifically for newsletters and subscriptions.
  2. Before you join a website or a service, read their privacy policy.
  3. Use a spam filter – software that uses various techniques to redirect unwanted emails away from your inbox.
  4. Consider giving your email address as an image on your website. Since it is not in plain text, it will stop spammers from quickly grabbing your address.

FAQ

What are spammers?

Spammers are the people who create spam or the people behind a company or advertising agency that perform the act of sending unsolicited and unwanted emails.

Why am I suddenly getting a lot of spam emails?

It could be a sign that your mailbox has been compromised and is being used to send out spam emails. Run a full virus scan on your computer to make sure no trojans or other threats are intercepting your mailbox login details.

Is it illegal to spam someone?

No. Sending unsolicited commercial emails (spam) is legal. However, spammers must comply with certain regulations. If they do not, they will face severe penalties.

Is spam a virus?

In the general sense, no. Spam is not a virus. However, some spam emails or messages may include phishing or malware (a form of virus) that can harm your device.

What do spam filters look for?

Spam filters use predefined rules or algorithms to go through email messages. They look for emails with features that display the details of spam-like emails. The algorithm then calculates the probability that the message could be spam. If the probability is high, it will flag the message as spam.

 

What is your daily average number of spam email? How do you usually handle it?

Let me know in the comments below.