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It seems nothing is sacred when it comes to the activities of hackers. Not even the FIFA World Cup is immune from the unwelcome attention of bad cyber actors. One example comes from the English Football Association (FA) as they warn their players, coaches, and staff to avoid using public and unsecured Wi-Fi and other communication links while in Russia to prevent hacking and theft of team and personal information.

According to an article in the Indian Express, these fears may be justified as a Russian hacking group called Fancy Bears, intercepted and published emails between the FA and FIFA discussing doping cases. This revcelation of stolen data was part of a larger distribution of other illegally obtained information. Fancy Bears has hacked the World Anti-Doping Agency before, and right now, all involved are investigating the source of the breach.

FIFA states that “They do not give cyber security advice to anyone”, encouraging them to implement their policies. It is further reported that the FA was indeed enhancing its cyber security before the breach was discovered.

But stealing sensitive information isn’t the only way hackers impact the World Cup. An article in the Daily Dot reported that during the 2014 games in Brazil, hackers took steps to support their teams beyond donning wild outfits and cheering insanely; although, we can presume they did that as well. Akamai Technologies, the company that handles 30% of the world’s internet content, discovered that hacker fans launched large scale attacks against the country who their team was playing.

For example, during the first match between Croatia and Brazil, Akamai noticed a large scale increase in attacks originating from internet address from the respective teams’ countries. All total, Akamai discovered five matches that triggered spikes in attacks higher than reported for a six-day period before and after the individual matches.

But even hackers fell prey to the pull of the Cup in the final between Germany and Brazil. Akamai reported that for 2.5 hours of the match, cyber-attacks around the world decreased dramatically. It appears sports can unit, everyone, at least on certain occasions.

Still, large scale events like the World Cup provide prime opportunities for hackers of all skill levels to launch hacks, disrupt company (and competitor’s) operations, and steal valuable data. Whether at the World Cup or sitting at a café, anytime you communicate openly, you risk having your data intercepted and compromised.

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