LONDON – Fans and businesses attending this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar have been warned that they may be targeted by cybercriminals.
Experts predict an increase in the number of scams and other similar crimes in the weeks leading up to the tournament, which begins on November 20.
“In recent years, there has been an increase in malicious online scams and phishing campaigns around international sporting events,” said Henry Wilkinson, chief intelligence officer at Dragonfly.
“Given the global popularity of the FIFA World Cup and the high demand for tickets and travel, cyber criminals are likely to engage in similar activities in the coming months,” Wilkinson added.
“There has already been a spike in newly-registered websites impersonating the FIFA 2022 World Cup page, indicating that phishing campaigns are already underway,” he said.
“We anticipate that this will increase in the coming months… we anticipate that phishing campaigns will revolve around the sale of ‘discounted’ tickets, travel, and accommodation… the installation of fake World Cup-related apps, malicious links offering promotional deals, and illegal football streaming sites embedded with malware.”
While fans may be the target of accommodation and travel-related frauds, Wilkinson warns that businesses may face more sophisticated threats, with cyber attackers attempting to steal customer data in exchange for money posing the greatest risk.
“We expect online threats to be much more sophisticated for businesses, particularly for hotel, aviation, and technology firms, given their importance to the event’s logistical success.” “Because these companies have large amounts of customer data, cybercriminal groups will perceive them as financially lucrative targets,” Wilkinson said.
“These organizations are increasingly using coercion to extract payments from businesses.” Cyber groups such as LockBit, for example, encrypt and disrupt access to victims’ systems before threatening to publish sensitive company information online (known as double-extortion). Businesses involved in the Qatar World Cup logistics should be on the lookout for and prepare for cyber attacks in the coming months,” he added.
Emad Fahmy, Middle East systems engineering manager at cybersecurity firm NETSCOUT, suggested a number of ways fans can reduce their risk of cybercrime, including avoiding suspicious s or website links and always using the most recent versions of web browsers.
“Organizations involved in these events should take on more responsibility in developing and operating the necessary security to create a more secure software system,” Fahmy said.
“There is no better way to mitigate cyberattacks (during) such prominent events than to thoroughly understand them first,” he added.
The tournament, regarded as one of the most important events on the global sporting calendar, will draw millions of visitors from around the world to Qatar, with billions more expected to watch the 64 games on television around the world.
According to FIFA, nearly 2.5 million match tickets have already been sold, with approximately 500,000 more available for purchase in late September.
Saudi Arabian and UAE fans are among the top ten in terms of ticket sales for this edition, which is being held in a Middle Eastern country for the first time.