England football team
The England football team will be warned of hacking fears for the upcoming World Cup Getty Images

The English Football Association (FA) is reportedly set to bulk up its cybersecurity during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, amid rising concern that a notorious hacking group may attempt to steal sensitive information such as tactical plans or players' personal emails.

Fears spiked following the emergence of the so-called "Fancy Bear" unit, a well-documented hacking team with suspected links to the Kremlin's intelligence services.

The FA will now provide its own protected internet access and explain to players in the England team about the dangers of oversharing on social media.

Experts have warned that WiFi connections in hotels, cafés and airports can all easily be exploited by hackers to compromise and steal personal data.

The BBC reported that the FA is still accessing potential training bases but, when a decision is eventually made, has pledged that all computer equipment will have strong "anti-hacking" protections in place.

Fifa, the international sporting body, this week confirmed that the FA had written to express its concerns about clandestine snooping.

"Fifa has informed the FA in such context that Fifa remains committed to preventing security attacks in general," a statement read, detailing its response.

"With respect to the Fancy Bears attack in particular it is presently investigating the incident to ascertain whether Fifa's infrastructure was compromised.

"Such investigation is still ongoing. For the purposes of computer security in general, Fifa is itself relying on expert advice from third parties. It is for this reason that Fifa cannot and does not provide any computer security advice to third parties."

In August this year, the Fancy Bear hackers published what purported to be the medical files of 25 footballers granted therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) during the 2010 World Cup.

The leak – which was similar to past disclosures from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) – included an email from Jenni Kennedy, the FA's integrity chief, referencing anti-doping cases.

The FA at the time said it was "disappointed" data about ongoing cases had been released.

"It is inappropriate to publish information relating to personal medical conditions or medications and we will work alongside our partners to ascertain the extent of this matter," it asserted.

Cybersecurity experts believe that the Fancy Bear group is leaking information in retaliation for Russia's ban from the Rio Olympics last year after its athletes were linked to an allegedly state-sponsored doping regime. It has, in the past, targeted political groups and entities.

Ross Rustici, intelligence research at Cybereason, previously told IBTimes UK the likely reason for the leaks was "to change the narrative and media spotlight on its own nefarious practices."

Bryan Campbell, a security researcher at multinational technology company Fujitsu, said the pro-active steps outlined by the FA were simple but effective.

He said: "It's been known that hackers can exploit WiFi to steal user data, and consumers have been warned on numerous occasions not to access unknown WiFi sources. The greatest defences are often the least exciting, and consist of doing the basic IT housekeeping well."

The England team is currently top of its World Cup qualifying group with 20 points and will face Slovenia at Wembley next month to cement a place in the competition.