SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Spies and tech-savvy mobsters may sound like James Bond villains, but they actually present a legitimate threat at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Security experts told ABC News that Russian organized crime groups are notorious for hacking both smartphones and emails in search of data and information that can then be sold unlawfully. They are believed to have access to cell towers in Sochi.
A senior U.S. intelligence official claimed Russian hackers would have "an intelligence bonanza" from the thousands of Americans visiting Sochi for the next two weeks.
"It's the same as during the Beijing Games -- the host government, private enterprise and individuals pose a big threat to people traveling to the Sochi Games, in respect to monitoring conversations on cell phones and intercepting texts and emails," said one Olympic security contractor.
Fears of illicit hacking come in addition to widespread concerns regarding government surveillance, which is sanctioned by Russian law. As the Russian government promised "the safest games in history," Russian intelligence agents have the ability to conduct electronic surveillance on the smartphones or personal computers of anyone within the country.
Russia's electronic surveillance program, known as SORM, does not require a court order to target individuals and capture data, which can be archived for three years. And the Federal Security Service, President Vladimir Putin's domestic spying agency, also conducts surveillance in search of terrorists. However, there have been cases in which hackers have become FSB proxies.
According to ABC, "a recent cybersecurity report by private firm CrowdStrike fingered Russian intelligence as likely involved with, or at least aware of, the work of a hacker group known as 'Energetic Bear,' which has targeted Western energy interests."
On the potential to become a target of electronic spying while in Sochi, a U.S. official responsible for Winter Olympics security said, "I wouldn't say everyone who goes will be considered a high value cyber-target, but there is a high likelihood that it will happen."