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FIFA World Cup fans warned amid rise of cyber attacks

Fake World Cup streaming website
Aussie World Cup fans are advised to avoid sites like this and instead stream all FIFA games free via SBS On Demand. (Source: Zscaler)

Football fans are being urged to take extra care online during the 2022 World Cup as cybersecurity experts report a sharp rise in the number of fake streaming websites and other associated scams.

Cybersecurity firm Zscaler said scammers were leveraging the rush and excitement around the sporting event to steal user data and/or infect users with malware.

Zscaler researchers said they had observed a marked increase in newly registered domains related to the FIFA World Cup, similar to the rise in sites and cyber attacks observed during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Here are some of the scams you and your family should watch out for:

1. Fake streaming sites

Fake streaming sites claim to offer free streaming of FIFA World Cup matches but, instead, send users down a redirection rabbit hole before prompting them to enter payment card details.

These websites will usually come with an assurance that your card is just for verification, or use the marketing tactic of a free trial, duping otherwise-wary customers into handing over their payment info.

In Australia, all FIFA 2022 World Cup matches are broadcast 100 per cent free on SBS, SBS Viceland or SBS On Demand, so leave the scam sites alone and tune into the Australian broadcaster for virus-free viewing.

2. Fake ticketing sites

As the FIFA World Cup kicked off, researchers observed a rapid rise in threats and scam sites related to the event itself. Many newly registered sites offering World Cup tickets are being hosted by scammers trying to trick users into paying good money for fake tickets.

Legitimate FIFA 2022 World Cup tickets are available direct from the FIFA website.

Fake World Cup ticket site
Don't get scammed by fake ticketing sites; buy your World Cup 2022 tickets direct from FIFA. (Source: Zscaler)

With flight prices to Qatar being sky-high right now, you should also watch out for websites offering cheap flights to Doha. If you're planning your World Cup journey late, get ready to pay $5,000 or more each way from Sydney, and only book direct with Qatar Air or via a reputable travel agent.

3. Infected downloads

Zscaler's ThreatLabz has also noticed genuine football fan blogs that rank on Google being compromised by attackers, who then encourage users to download infected files, generally disguised as a PDF.

The best way to avoid getting stung like this is sticking to official news sources and websites like Flashscore or Yahoo Sports, which will tell you everything you need to know and never ask you to download anything.

Fraudulent World Cup sticker PDF
Never download PDFs from unknown sources and beware of links hidden in PDFs. (Source: Zscaler)

Only ever download PDF files from reputable sources. Other possible vectors include websites offering pirated or 'cracked' copies of games such as FIFA 2023 - video game piracy is illegal and it's also a great way to get yourself hacked.

Stay safe online cheat list:

  • Book FIFA World Cup airline tickets only from authorised vendors and verified sites

  • For online streaming, only use the FIFA World Cup's streaming partner's website (SBS ON Demand)

  • Beware of fraudulent emails related to lottery or giveaway scams

  • Avoid downloading 'cracked' software and games

  • Don't fall for exciting "too good to be true" offers and avoid suspicious links or documents

  • Always make sure you are utilising HTTPS/secure connections

  • Use two-factor authentication wherever possible, especially on sensitive accounts like banking

  • Always ensure your operating system and web browser are up to date

  • Back up your files regularly so you have ransomware redundancy

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