FIFA World Cup is hackers’ chance to score personal data

It’s a ritual once every four years – fans gathering in soccer jerseys emblazoned with their favourite players’ names across the back, storming pubs and bars all over Canada to cheer on their teams of choice during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

And in between plays, fans are scoping out their favourite players online, heading to both official and unofficial websites to learn more about them. Unfortunately, as fun as that is, it presents an opportunity for enterprising hackers seeking to get fans to install malware, so they can get access to their passwords and data.

The biggest danger to fans? Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, according to McAfee Inc. Researchers from the security solutions provider found Ronaldo isn’t just a fan favourite – he’s a top pick among cybercriminals to get visitors to webpages containing malware. In fact, searching for Ronaldo online gives a 3.76 per cent chance that a user will land on a website containing threats like spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses, and so on. Using its SiteAdvisor tool, McAfee determined the most risky sites offer content like screensaver downloads and videos showing off players’ skills.

Other top contenders – on the field as well as online – include Lionel Messi, an Argentinian soccer player with a 3.72 per cent risk attached to searching his name, as well as Iker Casillas of Spain, with a 3.34 per cent risk. (The full list is available in the infographic below, with McAfee branding the players most likely to lead to malware installs labeled as members of the “Red Card Club”).

The most risky World Cup players to search for online. (Image: McAfee).
The most risky World Cup players to search for online. (Image: McAfee).
“Cybercriminals can’t resist taking advantage of ‘fever-pitch’ excitement around this summer’s epic matchups in Brazil,” said Paula Greves, director of web security research at McAfee, in a statement. “The danger is that this anticipation could lead fans to download content from pages they shouldn’t to fulfill their football experience.”

For consumers looking to protect themselves from being the unwitting victims of malware installations, McAfee researchers recommend they avoid downloading sites that asks them to download anything before giving them content. A better source of content would be official sites, or places where fans can stream video.

Also, as common sense might dictate, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So if a site is offering “free downloads,” that’s probably a good indication it may be prone to giving users viruses, as well as content.

The same goes for phishing schemes – if a site asks for personal information like credit card information, email, home address, Facebook login, or other data, that may be a scheme to trick consumers into sharing information with an attacker.

And to find news, fans should bear in mind non-official sites probably don’t get access to exclusive interviews or any other special kinds of news. To avoid being enticed into downloading malware, fans can use a safe search tool that will let them know if a site seems like a risky place to visit.

Finally, one of the best ways to be protected online is to equip both desktops and mobile devices with malware detection software, anti-virus, and strong passwords.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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