Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

World Cup beautiful game for cyber-scammers

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The World Cup has another month to run, plenty of time for online scammers to have several goes at the soccer mad among us.

"The event will be a hotbed for fraudulent activity," says Andreas Baumhof, chief technology officer at ThreatMetrix, a San Jose, Calif.-based security company.

In 2010, about 7.5 million Canadians watched the final match between Spain and the Netherlands. This time around, North American viewers are expected to follow the cup even more closely.

A survey conducted by MTV found nearly half of people aged 14 to 24 said their demographic was more engaged in the global event.

All 64 matches are being broadcast on cable and/or regular TV. They'll also be streaming the games online and to mobile devices, alongside original digital content that won't be on TV.

So it's unlikely your old college buddy decided to drop everything and fly to Brazil to catch a few games, or that his passport was stolen and he needs you to wire him some fast cash.

International events such as the World Cup are a boon to social-engineering scammers.

Watch out for fraudsters -- especially if you've been sharing your game-day plans on social networks.

A dead giveaway is the lack of details, says Bob West, chief trust officer at CipherCloud, a cloud security company based in San Jose, Calif.

"Why wouldn't they already have a ticket back? And any mention of Western Union is suspicious since money via that route is untraceable," he says.

You should also keep an eye out for fake Wi-Fi networks.

Computer security company Avast says two out of three U.S. soccer fans will use their smartphone or tablet to enhance their World Cup experience. While most will watch games at home on TV, 40 per cent will live-stream the games on their PC and 21 per cent said they will live-stream via their smartphone or tablet, Avast found.

Cybercriminals know that and they're busy creating fake networks to snare the unsuspecting.

"These are easy to create by hiding a wireless router or hot spot in the vicinity and giving the connection a plausible sounding name like Stadium Internet," says West.

If you're at a bar or other venue, ask someone official what its network is called.

"Otherwise, connect at your own risk -- anything you send through an 'evil twin' network is accessible to the bad guy," said West.

You should also be skeptical of pop-up ads offering tickets and souvenirs at unreasonably low prices.

The golden rule for avoiding cyber crime is always, "if it sounds too good to be true, then red flags should pop up," says West.

Also be careful of sites offering free streaming of World Cup games. ThreatMetrix' Baumhof recommends only doing so from official event websites.

"While it may be tempting to stream from seemingly faster or non-official sites, viewers should refrain from doing so in case any of the links are malicious, allowing criminals to remotely download malware to viewers' devices," he says.

Searching can also be hazardous. There's a lot of search-engine poisoning, going on. "Be wary of clicking on random links to third-party websites. Only click on links to the official event website, news websites and other authentic sources," says Baumhof.

Finally, be careful of the apps you download. There are a ton popping up in app stores, offering player stats, schedules and commentary.

A newcomer to your phone might be one of the multitude of sound apps that turn your mobile device in to a vuvuzela of South African World Cup fame.

That could contain malware along with the cacophony of a digital horn.

"Only download authentic, official event apps from the app store. Downloading fraudulent apps can expose mobile devices to malware and offer cyber-criminals easy access to personal information stored on devices," says Baumhof.


-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2014 B8

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