IIt’s football time all over the world. Fans are glued to their TV screens as nations compete for the coveted Jules Rimet trophy at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
But with its popularity comes pressure to protect players’ and clubs’ financial assets in a world where cybercrime can harm stakeholders. Two years ago, the UK’s National Cyber Security Center reported that sports organizations were under far more cyber attacks than other companies.
The criminals look to gain access to computer information by hacking into the club’s emails and digital system through the use of ransomware. Hackers regularly target teams and private league organizers with phishing and ransomware. Top clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool have been victims of cyber attacks in the past.
According to Stas Protassov, co-founder, Acronis CyberFit Sports Partners ,a Switzerland-based company, football clubs have long used data analytics to analyze and improve the performance of their players, collecting a lot of data. They keep training sessions and players’ data relating to their performances in key positions confidential. “Sports players often have a higher wealth and following, their data can be used to steal funds or abuse their trusted persona for fraud. Data lakes must be protected against data leaks, he says. Club owners engage security firms to prevent their financial assets from being hijacked, especially during transfer window, where cybercriminals are said to hack into the emails and bank accounts of the club and players.A cyber expert in Delhi says the threat may be widespread in Europe, but cases in India are few and mostly related to lower-level crimes and bank fraud.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary Shaji Prabhakaran says he has not heard of this issue from any Indian club; only the AIFF website was hacked once. “We have evaluated the gaps and are working on strengthening digital assets using hardware experts,” says Prabhakaran. AIFF has, for example, applied for support to ensure digitization of all aspects of administration. “We have an expert who documents the communication, handles the website and takes care of the live streaming, which could cause enormous damage if hacked. We follow the FIFA module, he adds.
While fans are enjoying the ongoing World Cup, behind-the-scenes officials ensure that all data about the players and their earnings is safe. There’s a lot at stake as the game grows and reaches new destinations around the world, but the job of cybercrime experts to keep football’s revenue safe becomes all the tougher.