THE Fancy Bears have taken centre stage again after leaking medical records from the 2010 World Cup.
The hack group rose to prominence after publishing World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) medical records for Olympic athletes.
Here is all you need to know about them.
Who are the Fancy Bears?
The Fancy Bears describe themselves as an “international hack team” which stands for “fair play and clean sport”.
The group are widely suspected of being Russian, with their hacking of Wada records a potential vendetta for the exclusion of the country’s entire track and field team from the Olympic games for doping.
A full statement on the group’s website says: “Greetings citizens of the world. Allow us to introduce ourselves… We are Fancy Bears’ international hack team. We stand for fair play and clean sport.
“We announce the start of #OpOlympics. We are going to tell you how Olympic medals are won. We hacked World Anti-Doping Agency databases and we were shocked with what we saw.
“We will start with the U.S. team which has disgraced its name by tainted victories.
“We will also disclose exclusive information about other national Olympic teams later. Wait for sensational proof of famous athletes taking doping substances any time soon.
“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us. Anonymous – #OpOlympics”
Despite the final line in the statement, there is no evidence to link Fancy Bears to the international hack team known as Anonymous.
It is not known when the group was founded but they first went public in 2016 with sport-related leaks.
According to cyber-security firm Crowdstrike, they have been around since at least 2008.
Are the Fancy Bears Russian?
The Fancy Bears have not stated that they are either from a country or representing any government.
But Crowdstrike’s co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch says their style “closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government”.
And former Australian Anti-Doping Agency chief Richard Ings told The Guardian that he “believes the hacking is the Russians taking revenge on Wada for finding state-sponsored doping across many sports in the country”.
Although if the group is working for the Russian government, branching into football would be a huge risk with the World Cup in the country less than a year away.
And Alexiy Baranov, head of the information security department at the higher school of economics in Moscow, told The Guardian that the Fancy Bears’ attacks were too amateur to have been carried out by a government.
He said: “They could have done this more harshly and suddenly.
“If it was [state-sponsored] hackers, they would have dug deeper. Since it’s enthusiasts, amateurs, they got what they got and went public with it.”
Which World Cup stars were found to have used banned substances and have they done anything wrong?
Dirk Kuyt, Carlos Tevez, Mario Gomez, Gabriel Heinze and Diego Milito were among the players found to have been given dispensation to use normally-banned substances in 2010.
The other players were Ryad Boudebouz (Algeria), Karim Matmour (Algeria), Juan Veron (Argentina), Walter Samuel (Argentina), Fabian Orellana (Chile), Humberto Suazo (Chile), Kanga Akale (Ivory Coast), Christian Trasch (Germany), Hans-Jorg Butt (Germany), Dennis Aogo (Germany), Georgios Tzavellas (Greece), Pantelis Kapetanos (Greece), Vicenzo Iaquinta (Italy), Mauro Camoranesi (Italy), Dirk Kuyt (Holland), Tim Brown (New Zealand), Costa Barbarouses (New Zealand), Ryan Nelson (New Zealand), Martin Jakubko (Slovakia), Marco Suler (Slovenia) and Heath Pearce (USA).
There is no suggestion that the players have broken any rules in using the substances and, indeed, by gaining permission they went through the proper legal channels.
What have the Russian government said about the Fancy Bears?
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has denied all links to the Fancy Bears.
He told the Uefa Conference in 2016: “How can you prove that the hackers are Russian? You blame Russia for everything, it is very in fashion now.”
But, while not endorsing the hack, the country’s UK embassy tweeted to say that Wada doping records should be publicly available regardless.
In another tweet they reiterated their belief that Russian athletes had been treated unfairly.
Although Mutko contradicted the Embassy’s tweet, saying: “All the information must be protected. Those are personal data.
“And we have in Russia also the protection of personal data so if somebody hacks and opens the data this person will be criminally prosecuted.
“We are also concerned because they have the same data of the Russian athletes and we can also be a victim, it doesn’t matter which athlete.”