In the wake of the 2018 World Cup final, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the official ball of the competition to US President Donald Trump. The ball in question was not a spy ball, but indeed contained some electronic components.
On July 16, 2018, at the USA-Russia summit held in Helsinki, Finland, Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to celebrate the end of the football world cup that was organized on his territory. Thus, the latter offered a ball to President Trump by solemnly declaring: “I give you this ball and now, it is in your camp”.
Some observers have said, most ironically, that it would be wise to check that there was no equipment inside the ball to spy on the White House. But after verifications, it turns out that the balloon does contain electronic equipment!
It is an NFC chip for Near Field Communication. This technology makes it possible to exchange data within 10 cm of distance between two devices equipped with this device. It is found for example in our mobile phones as well as on some transport or payment cards.
In the case of the ball (the Telstar 18 from Adidas) offered by the Russian president, the manufacturer has never hidden that the purpose of the NFC chip was to allow buyers to connect to it using their smartphone and thus have access to information about the game, the balloon itself and other technical features.
Media such as CNN and Bloomberg have gone so far as to question some cybersecurity experts who have all said that using an NFC chip as a means of espionage is unlikely. Indeed, the distance of communication would make it almost impossible to transfer information.