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March 9 2021 12.07am

Hackers keep targeting football clubs

January 21 2021

Premier League

Premier League

Itís only a matter of time before anything popular, at some point, becomes targeted by hackers, writes Mark Blake.

In the UK alone, more than half of football clubs have experienced a cyber incident within a yearís worth of time, and these numbers speak volumes about the seriousness of the situation.

To shed some light on the matter, weíre going to take a look at why this happens, who is targeted, and how to stand up against the ones behind the attacks.

Monetary gain is the name of the game

Apart from a couple of oddballs with a personal agenda, most hackers are in it for monetary gain. Here, ransomware is a tool that lends itself to the purpose nicely. Once theyíve managed to infect their target through social engineering and various other forms of trickery, theyíre in a position to extort a hefty ransom fee. Due to the anonymous nature of Bitcoin, this is the currency they tend to demand.

Now imagine the kind of money that is turning wheels in the football industry and think about what it means to lose out on a single day of work due to having your files encrypted by one of these viruses. In most cases, the pressure is so high that it makes more financial sense to pay up than to hope for recovery. The hackers know this and count on it as a result.

Ransomware in a nutshell

Ransomware is a piece of malicious code that encrypts your files without your permission, thus preventing you from accessing them. To unlock them, you can either:

Restore your files from a previously-made backup (assuming youíve made one in the first place)

Try your luck with a decryption tool

Pay the ransom (nothing binds them to honor their end of the deal)

As you can see, none of these options are ideal. In a fringe scenario, you could find yourself losing your valuable files despite having done everything in your power to ensure their safety.

What the reports say

In the July 2020ís rendition of the UK National Cyber Security Centre report, it became known that one of the ransomware attacks almost resulted in an entire league fixture being canceled. In other words, the loss would have been measured in hundreds of thousands of pounds. Based on this, the crooks leveraged the situation to demand a hefty sum of 400 bitcoins from Manchester United, the target of the attacks.

Allegedly, the attack penetrated through the clubís IT systems. As luck would have it, their IT crew was able to identify them and shut them down to contain the attack and prevent further damage from taking place. Even so, the hackers got away with confidential information, thus leaving a lasting dent in the clubís reputation.

Bear in mind this is only one example. But the gist of it is this: if it can happen to such a high profile football club such as Manchester United, no one is safe.

How to protect yourself from ransomware

1. Be wary of the links you click on

Nothing invites a ransomware infection more than clicking on unverified links posted by individuals who havenít earned your trust. Unless theyíre coming from a reputable website or a friend you know in person, think twice before clicking on a link despite the claims anyone is making.

2. Scan all email attachments before opening them

Expanding on the point made above, be suspicious when an email attachment lands in your inbox. Itís best to avoid executing it as it may contain malware. If you must, run an antivirus scan before opening it or use attachment sandboxing to stay safe.

3. Protect your personal data

Being too liberal when revealing your personal information could get you in trouble if it ever gets into the wrong hands. The more they know about you, the more they can either impersonate you or even use the information gathered to launch a sophisticated attack against you.

4. Hide your IP

Much in the same vein, you should take the steps necessary to conceal your IP address. Without knowing it, a hacker will have a harder time breaching your cyber defenses.

Using a VPN is a great tool to keep it safe. What is VPN? In essence, itís a software solution that encrypts your web traffic. Every bit of data you either send or receive is safely stored in an encrypted tunnel so no one can access it but the intended recipient. At the same time, it also hides your IP by introducing another server in the middle of the connection chain. Read more about the VPN here.

5. Keep your software and OS up to date

This one is self-explanatory; since outdated software is full of unpatched holes, itís vulnerable to hackers. Donít give them the satisfaction of taking advantage.

Conclusion

Due to the reasons outlined above, football clubs remain attractive targets for hackers to target. While thereís no bulletproof way to stay safe, it all boils down to your knowledge and the willingness to do something about it.

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