As the biggest football tournament in the world has taken centre stage in Russia, cybersecurity experts are warning that soccer fans might be attractive targets for hackers. Besides, internet security is a growing concern in Russia in general.
"All big events are an attractive target for hackers, and the World Cup is not an exception. Those visiting the 2018 FIFA World Cup must be extremely cautious and take additional steps to avoid various threats. Emotional matches can cause loosened focus on personal privacy, and the World Cup can become a true goldmine for cybercriminals," said Laura Tyrell, Public Relations Manager at NordVPN. "The biggest security issue during the event are public Wi-Fi hotspots. In addition, Russian authorities have been strengthening mass surveillance and tracking, so that should also be a concern, especially to journalists and others transmitting sensitive information."
About 1 million football enthusiasts from different countries are currently in Russia, visiting 12 venues in 11 cities. Recently, Kaspersky Lab analysed around 32,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in 11 cities hosting World Cup matches and found that over a fifth (22.4%) of them are unsecure. According to the report, the top three World Cup cities with the highest percentage of unreliable networks are Saint Petersburg (48%), Kaliningrad (47%) and Rostov (44%).
The most common hackers' tactics are man-in-the-middle attacks, Wi-Fi sniffing, and fake hotspots. Especially unreliable are those Wi-Fi hotspots that are free, usually provided in coffee shops, shopping malls, airports, stations, etc.
Here is some advice from NordVPN on staying secure when using the internet at the World Cup – or any big public event.
- Don't share your device. Be extremely cautious with your devices – don't share your smartphone or computer with anyone, especially the ones you don't know.
- Install a VPN. A VPN makes a user's online traffic snoop-proof through strong encryption. When connected to a VPN, public Wi-Fi can be used without getting paranoid about data being stolen. NordVPN, for example, is easy to use and keeps no user logs.
- Be careful with gifted USBs. Be cautious with various IT-related gifts, such as USB keys – throw them away instantly, as such items might contain viruses or other malicious content.
- Always update. Update all your apps and software, both on your laptop and smartphone.
- Be careful about fake apps. Use and download only official applications.
- Avoid online financial transactions on unprotected networks. Avoid using internet banking, buying online or presenting your credit card details online if the network is unprotected.
- Don't tell them where you are. Avoid sharing your location on social media or other applications.
- Press the off button. Keep your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off, except when needed.