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Surge in online scams, hacks expected ahead of FIFA World Cup, expert warns

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A surge in online scams is expected ahead of the FIFA World Cup, a Dubai-based cybersecurity expert warns, cautioning people to watch out for fake, fraudulent websites and emails that might appear official.

“It is fair to consider that there will always be a surge in online scams surrounding large-scale significant events,” Emad Fahmy, Systems Engineering Manager Middle East at cybersecurity firm NETSCOUT, told Al Arabiya English in an interview on Wednesday.

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Fahmy said that cybercriminals often use mega-events like the FIFA World Cup – which is set to kick off on November 21 in Qatar – “as a pretext to entice and entrap unwary fans or users.”

While sustaining connectivity throughout a major event like the World Cup can be a challenge, the even bigger challenge is to keep user data safe.

General view inside the Lusail Stadium, the venue for the 2022 Qatar World Cup Final. (File Photo: Reuters)
General view inside the Lusail Stadium, the venue for the 2022 Qatar World Cup Final. (File Photo: Reuters)

“During events of this magnitude, malicious actors often take advantage of their [the event’s] large scale and intensify attacks on critical cloud infrastructure with new and sophisticated tactics, such as exploiting stolen credentials and identifying them to amplify ransomware attacks,” he said.

“Attendees can often expect to find numerous fake, fraudulent websites and emails that appear official, luring them into finding cheap tickets, and simply streaming and watching these events live will expose them to multiple additional scams.”

Fahmy warned that using unauthorized service providers can result in stolen credentials, passwords, and credit card information. Other threats include falling victim to ransomware or malicious software than can infect a user’s phone or computer.

“These can cause the unknowing victim to spread the malware to family and friends, lose sensitive data, or even suffer significant financial consequences,” he added.

Mitigating attacks

Adopting a “rigorous and comprehensive approach” is necessary when it comes to mega-events, Fahmy said, urging the need to incorporate more than just basic security standards.

“Organizations that are involved in these events should assume additional responsibility in developing and operating the necessary security to create a more secure software system,” said Fahmy.

“There is no better way to mitigate cyberattacks [during] such prominent events than to first thoroughly understand them.”

The cybersecurity expert urged users to approach digital communication or website links in relation to the World Cup with caution.

Users should avoid clicking on suspicious emails or website links and ensure they are always using the latest versions of web browsers and never enter their credential, password, or credit card information into suspicious websites as there is a high probability they may be scams, waiting to catch the next victim.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place in Doha, Qatar from November 21 until December 18.

The highly anticipated event is the first World Cup being organized in a Middle eastern country.

According to FIFA, 1.8 million match tickets were sold in the first two sale batches but the Federation has not yet mentioned the total number of tickets that will be made available.

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