World Anti-Doping Agency attacked by Russian hackers, includes files for Simone Biles, Venus and Serena Williams

The World Anti-Doping Agency is in hot water after it announced that Russian hackers accessed its database, specifically viewing information on athletes that were involved with the Olympics games in Rio. According to the WADA, the Russian cyber espionage group operator by the name of Tsar Team (APT28), or Fancy Bear, was behind the attack on the private information.

Simone Biles, U.S. Olympic gold medal gymnast, was one of the athletes whose files were hacked.

“WADA deeply regrets this situation and is very conscious of the threat that it represents to athletes whose confidential information has been divulged through this criminal act,” said Olivier Niggli, Director General, WADA, in a statement. “We are reaching out to stakeholders, such as the IOC, IFs and NADOs, regarding the specific athletes impacted.”

The data that was accessed and partially released include medical information such as Therapeutic Use Exemptions issued by International Sports Federations and National Anti-Doping Organizations, which are records that allow the use of a banned substance due to athletes' verified medical needs. Players’ information that was publically released includes tennis players Venus and Serena Williams and teenage gymnast Simone Biles.

“WADA condemns these ongoing cyber-attacks that are being carried out in an attempt to undermine WADA and the global anti-doping system,” said Niggli. “WADA has been informed by law enforcement authorities that these attacks are originating out of Russia. Let it be known that these criminal acts are greatly compromising the effort by the global anti-doping community to re-establish trust in Russia further to the outcomes of the Agency’s independent McLaren Investigation Report.”

WADA believes that the attack took place through phishing of email accounts to gain passwords to account information from the Rio 2016 Games.

Notably Russia had a doping scandal this summer which prohibited 119 members of its Olympic team from competing in Rio. This attack on the WADA comes after a similar hack in August where Yuliya Stepanova, the key whistleblower for WADA’s Independent Pound Commission that exposed widespread doping in Russian athletics, had her password illegally obtained and her account violated.

According to Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov, it was "out of the question" that the Kremlin or secret services were involved in the WADA hacking, Russian news agencies reported.

The hacker group, Fancy Bear, has also been linked to the leak of the stolen archive emails from the Democratic National Committee. Published by Wikileaks, a handful of experts believe that the Russian group hacked the emails in order to influence the upcoming U.S. election, the FBI is actively investigating the attack.

WADA is cooperating in an investigation with relevant law enforcement authorities, and is conducting internal and external security vulnerability checks to ensure that stakeholders are adequately protected.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.