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World Cup Spurs Cyber-Attacks, Digital Protests


We all know that cyber-predators will stop at nothing to steal identities and other important online information, even if that means exploiting a globally celebrated event like the World Cup. That’s right; they use the quadrennial soccer contest as a phishing lure for unsuspecting victims, while Anonymous supports domestic protesters by defacing Web sites and by launching denial-of-service attacks.

As the ultimate contest for the world’s most popular sport, the Federation Internationale de Futbol Association (FIFA) World Cup attracts billions of viewers during the month the tournament runs. Little wonder, then, that the contest also attracts cyber-criminals and online protesters as well. Cyber predators use it as a way to fool viewers/attendees into divulging information, while protestors are drawn to the enormity of the world stage.

Hackers linked to the group Anonymous have claimed responsibility for a wide number of attacks, including the email leak from Brazil’s Foreign Ministry at the end of May and a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the Web site for the Military Police of São Paulo, according to the security firm Radware, which tracks the attacks.

“There are a lot of attacks going on, and they are across the spectrum,” Carl Herberger, VP of security solutions for Radware, told eWEEK. “From sporting sites to government sites and even advertisers, this has risen above the level of nuisance attacks.”

In a number of instances, Anonymous-linked hackers have marred some sites and made others unreachable. In an interview published on May 30, one representative for the activists stated that protesters are calling attention to the undue spending on a sporting event in a country that continues to face problems providing just basic services.

While the clamor surrounding the World Cup is fertile ground for cyber-criminals, the controversy surrounding the Brazilian government’s spending on the month-long contest has resulted in protests across the country and support from cyber-activists.

The 2014 World Cup’s hefty price tag totaled more than $11.5 billion, almost $3.6 billion of which was spent on stadiums, according to the Wall Street Journal. Over a million Brazilian citizens took to the streets in protest last year, and less than half now support the choice to host the World Cup.

The additional drama has augmented the level of attention paid to the World Cup by cyber-criminals, who frequently use prevalent events as a lure for phishing attacks and social engineering.

Scams range from fake video players that impostors claim can be used to watch World Cup matches to emails that claim the receiver has won tickets to Brazil for the tournament. The fraudulent email, for example, may contain ZIP files that will install a malicious Trojan when opened, according to Symantec, the leading cyber-security firm in the world.

“Inside the zip file is an executable which, if executed, will allow your computer to be taken over by a remote administration tool (RAT) known as DarkComet,” the company stated in an analysis.

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