Microsoft: Sporting events and arenas experience increased cyber threats

TIME.CO, JakartaMicrosoftin the report Computer signals recently, it discovered that threat cyber security to large-scale events and arenas is very diverse and complex. This threat requires constant vigilance and collaboration among stakeholders to prevent and mitigate escalations that may occur.

The report builds on the learnings and telemetry of Microsoft as it provided cybersecurity support to critical infrastructure facilities during Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“With the global sports market valued at more than $600 billion, sports teams, major league organizers, global sports associations and visitors hold a lot of valuable information that cybercriminals crave,” said Vasu Jakkal, Corporate Vice President, Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management Microsoft in a written statement, Monday, August 7, 2023.

Unfortunately, this information becomes increasingly vulnerable as the interconnectivity between arenas increases. Meanwhile, the number of connected devices and networks in this environment—sports teams, major leagues, global sports associations, and visitors—all contain a wealth of valuable information that cybercriminals seek.

Information technology (IT) systems in event venues and arenas are riddled with hundreds of known and unknown vulnerabilities, allowing cyber threat actors to target business-critical services, such as retail outlets, IT infrastructure and visitor devices.

Sports teams, coaches and athletes themselves are also vulnerable to the loss of data regarding their athletic performance, competitive advantage and personal information. Visitors’ personally identifiable information can also be targeted through the event’s vulnerable digital structures, such as through the use of companion mobile apps, Wi-Fi hotspots, and QR codes with malicious URLs.

Microsoft Defender Experts for Hunting has developed comprehensive cyber security defenses for facilities and organizations in Qatar that support the soccer tournament. Defender Experts for Hunting conducts an initial risk assessment taking into account the profile of cyber threat actors, as well as their tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as other global insights from our telemetry.


“We analyzed more than 634.4 million authentication attempts while providing cybersecurity defenses for facilities and organizations in Qatar throughout November and December 2022,” Jakkal said.

In general, sporting and entertainment events carry a different level of cyber risk and vulnerability than other situations. This is because several events occur rapidly and simultaneously. For example, with new partners and vendors gaining access to corporate networks where access is only considered temporary, so the access in question is often not designed to be continuously evaluated and improved on the company’s security posture.

In addition to pre-planning to support these unique security needs, site managers must also consider the privacy risks associated with the temporary, ad hoc or permanent IT infrastructure used.

To protect themselves from cybersecurity threats, athletes, associations, teams, and arena managers must take robust protective measures. First, they must prioritize implementing a comprehensive, layered security framework. This includes the use of firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, as well as strong encryption protocols to harden the network against unauthorized access and data breaches. Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments should be performed to identify and address any weaknesses that may exist in the network infrastructure.

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