The hosting of a major international sports event is always a cause for celebration. It is an opportunity to show the world what your country can do, and to put on a display of athleticism and national pride that everyone can enjoy. However, with this level of excitement also comes a heightened risk of cyber attack.

The upcoming FIFA #WorldCup in #Qatar is no exception. In fact, experts are already warning that the tournament could be targeted by hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities in the Qatari infrastructure. And given that so many people will be relying on digital devices to follow the games – from smartphones and laptops to connected TVs – the potential for disruption is high.

The main purpose of these attacks is to disrupt the event and/or steal sensitive information from the host nation.

Cybercriminals want to disrupt an event and/or steal sensitive information from a host nation for two reasons. Firstly, they can use the information to damage the reputation of the host nation. Secondly, they can use the information to steal money or other valuable things.

Looking back at 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the Tiger Security CEO Emanuele Gentili said, “The attacks aimed at compromising governmental infrastructures have registered a significant increase since the end of April with an exponential growth to almost 2000 daily targets”. Most of the them are not coming from local hackers, but seem to originate from India, Turkey, Europe, Mexico and the U.S. (1)

“Hackers will use different methods to trick and collect sensitive information; for example, the hacktivism created fake portal pages to the Brazil Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then sent our emails to their staff asking them to login using their credentials with the language of urgency” said Gentili.(2) Similar method was used in Qatar back in 2013 targeting one of the largest organisations, with a goal to take over the social media in order to damage the reparation of not just the organisation but also the whole country.

During 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil reported one million cyber security incident due to putting the country on the spot due to hosting one of the largest sporting event in the world.

Similarly the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia was targeted for cyber attacks. Russia neutralized close to 25M attacks during the major football tournament, president claims. Russian security services blocked close to 25 million cyber attacks and malicious information campaigns during the World Cup, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in the wake of the tournament’s final. (3)

As for Qatar, according to Trend Micro’s annual cybersecurity report for 2021, more than 15 million cyber threats in Qatar have been blocked and detected by Trend Micro.

As you can see from the above two examples, the FIFA World Cup 2022 will expect, if not double, triple the number of attacks compared to FIFA world cup Russia 2018.

From that, government, businesses, residents and the FIFA World Cup fans should be aware of the risks at stake, and to take the counter-measure to ensure the safety of themselves, to enjoy the sporting event spirit, and to have the best experience from what the country is offering to fans of the World Cup.

Major sporting events grab the attention of fans, but also cyber criminals. #Hackers find their way in by looking for vulnerabilities in a system or by tricking humans.

95% of cyber security breaches result from human error. (4)

As individuals, we each have a responsibility to help keep our organizations safe. With this in mind, below are some tips and countermeasures to help you and your organizations stay safe:

1- Make sure that your devices are update (operating system, and softwares)

2- Use a strong password

3- Install a VPN and use it when using public WIFI

4- Don’t open and click links in an email or SMS without validating the source

5- Backup your data

6- Never pay for ransom or a hacker if you got compromised

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