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2018 FIFA World Cup Cyber Threats: Things to Watch Out For

Dr. Michael J. Garbade's profile image

By: Dr. Michael J. Garbade

June 26, 2018

The ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia is one of the most followed sporting events in the world. In fact, it’s estimated that 3.4 billion people, about half of the world’s population, will be viewing the event until it ends on July 15th.

As soccer fans (or football fans if you are across the Atlantic) get thrilled, cyber criminals are also getting excited about the massive opportunity to cause harm to unsuspecting fans.

So, even as you enjoy the soccer frenzy, be sure to keep yourself protected so that you can get fully engrossed in the action.

Here are some key cyber threats to watch out for during this 2018 FIFA World Cup season.

1. Phishing Attacks and Scams

A high-profile event like the World Cup provides an arena for cyber thieves to carry out their exploits, especially through phishing attacks and scams.

During this year’s World Cup, more than one million people are expected to travel to Russia to experience the action first-hand. And as fans look for the best flight bookings, match tickets, and search for other deals, they are susceptible to phishing attacks.

Cyber criminals usually design the phishing emails with the intention of luring the victims to provide their sensitive information, such as credit card information.

Once they’ve harvested the confidential information, the thieves can use it to cause more harm to the victim.

It has already been reported that some football fans have been receiving disguised emails with false details about goodies they've won, such as World Cup tickets. And the payments for such goodies end up in the hands of the thieves.

Additionally, some websites have been running scam promotions purporting to be legitimately associated with FIFA, the international body that governs football.

Such websites are meant to defraud fans by causing them to unknowingly give their sensitive information.

Therefore, you should be on the lookout for the phishing attacks and only deal with emails and websites that are trustworthy.

For example, you can purchase tickets only from the official FIFA website or other reliable registered agents.

2.  Wi-Fi Hotspots Attacks

During this football season, most people will be using Wi-Fi hotspots to keep track of the latest game highlights from Russia. However, accessing the Internet via a public wireless network could expose you to cyber attacks.

According to Waqar Ahmed, who has over four years of experience in cyber security and currently trains people on secure cyber practices, “Most Wi-Fi hotspots lack encryption or password protection features, implying that data moving through them are open to being intercepted by criminals.”

Thus, you should be cautious when livestreaming a match or checking the latest highlights using unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in restaurants, airports, or railway stations.

3. Mobile Malware

As World Cup-themed apps trend, some unscrupulous developers are already exploiting the opportunity to introduce malicious apps in the app stores.

Once a user downloads these fake mobile apps, they install malware on their devices, and the malware leaks sensitive information to third parties and even makes unauthorized payments. Most of these apps mimic popular apps, which make them difficult to detect on the surface from things like appearance and other features.

So, before downloading any football mobile app to keep up with the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches, do a thorough search to verify its authenticity.

4. False Distress Calls

You should also watch out for false distress calls. For example, a stranded traveler scam can take place when hackers use the compromised details of someone who attended the World Cup to desperately ask for funds quickly.


A large-scale event like the quadrennial FIFA World Cup usually attracts cyber threats of unprecedented levels.

For example, during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, authorities reported close to 100,000 attempts to launch malicious programs and cause harm to participants.

As fans get caught up in the emotions of the tournament, cyber criminals often capitalize on the opportunity to cause damage.

Therefore, you should stay vigilant and ensure that hackers do not win the game.

Happy (and secure) watching of the 2018 FIFA World Cup!

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