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SAO PAULO — Brazilian hackers are threatening to disrupt the World Cup with attacks ranging from jamming websites to data theft, adding cyberwarfare to the list of challenges for a competition already marred by protests, delays and overspending.
In a country with rampant online crime, a challenging telecommunications infrastructure and little experience with cyberattacks, authorities are rushing to protect government websites and those of FIFA, soccer's governing body.
Furious about the 33 billion reais ($14 billion) in federal funds being spent on World Cup preparations, more than a million Brazilians took to the streets last June in a wave of mass demonstrations, calling for better public services, greater transparency, and a crackdown on corruption.
Now, hackers say they will join the fray.
"We are already making plans," said an alleged hacker who goes by the nom de guerre of Eduarda Dioratto. "I don't think there is much they can do to stop us."
Reuters contacted Dioratto and other self-proclaimed members of the international hacker network Anonymous by finding them online. Though unable to confirm their true identities, Reuters spoke with them in the interest of understanding their threats and what impact they might have on the World Cup.
They said the event offers an unprecedented global audience and an opportune moment to target sites operated by FIFA, the government, other organizers or corporate sponsors.
"The attacks will be directed against official websites and those of companies sponsoring the Cup," a hacker known as Che Commodore said in a late-night Skype conversation.
While most of the fretting ahead of the tournament is focused on the completion of stadiums by kickoff on June 12, experts agree that little attention is being paid to Brazil's telecommunications infrastructure.
Problems include overstrained networks, widespread use of pirated software and low investment in online security. To make matters worse, Brazil is home to one of the world's most sophisticated cybercriminal communities, which is already disrupting ticket sales and other World Cup commerce.
"It's not a question of whether the Cup will be targeted, but when," said William Beer, a cybersecurity expert with the consultancy firm Alvarez & Marsal. "So resilience and response become extremely important."
Brazil says it is ready, or as ready as it can be.
"It would be reckless for any nation to say it's 100 percent prepared for a threat," said General José Carlos dos Santos, the head of the cybercommand for Brazil's army. "But Brazil is prepared to respond to the most likely cyber threats."
A FIFA spokesperson declined to comment on online security.