Cybercrime threat to Qatar World Cup 2022

August 24, 2022


UK football fans travelling to the World Cup in Qatar this winter have been warned they are at risk from cyber criminals.

Accoring to one report there has already been surge in newly-registered websites claiming to be or impersonating the FIFA 2022 championship.

Experts say phishing attempts are likely to increase up until the start of the tournament on 20 November.

Henry Wilkinson, Chief Intelligence Officer at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, told sky News there will be a large increase in cybercriminals targeting people and firms because of the number of people wanting to attend and travel there.

Wilkinson says scans are on the up for the tournament which starts on November 20.

He said: “There has been an increase in malicious online scams and phishing campaigns around international sporting events in recent years.

“Given the global popularity of the FIFA World Cup and the high demand for tickets and travel, cyber criminals will probably pursue similar activities over the next few months.

“There has already been a spike in newly-registered websites impersonating the FIFA 2022 World Cup page, showing that phishing campaigns are already up and running.

“We expect this to increase in the coming months… we expect phishing campaigns to revolve around the sale of tickets, travel and accommodation at ‘discounted’ prices… the installation of fake World Cup-related apps, malicious links offering promotional deals and illegal football streaming sites embedded with malware.”

Fans can mitigate the risks by not clicking on suspicious links and only downloading official event-related apps from trusted and familiar sites, he said.

FIFA hav confiurmed that 2.45m seats had been sold so far, with more than 500,000 seats still available.

The games in which Brazil play Serbia and Cameroon were among the most in-demand, it added.

Greatest demand was from Qatar and neighbouring countries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but English fans were in the top ten list of those seeking tickets. Tickets cost £58 for the cheaper seats at the less popular matches.

Mr Wilkinson added: “For businesses, we expect online threats to be much more sophisticated, especially for hotel, aviation and technology firms given their importance to the logistical success of the event.

“These companies hold large amounts of customer data, and will therefore be perceived as financially-lucrative targets by cybercriminal groups.

“These groups are increasingly using coercive methods to extract payments from businesses. For example, cyber groups such as LockBit encrypt and disrupt access to victim’s systems, and then threaten to publish sensitive company information online (known as double-extortion).

“Businesses involved with the logistics of the Qatar World Cup should watch out for, and prepare for, cyber attacks in the coming months.”

The choice of Qatar as a venue for the World Cup has proved a controversial one as the country has little history with the sport and virtually no presence in world football.

The World Cup is usually played in the summer after the end of the traditional season. However, that risked playing matches in scorching temperatures of up to 45C. So the competition was switched to the winter in the middle of many countries’ domestic seasons.

The tournament – seen as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, events in the world’s sporting calendar alongside the Olympics – will attract millions of people to the tiny Gulf state. Billions around the world will watch on TV.

According to one report, FIFA says that it has received 3m requests for tickets to the World Cup final on 18 December, at the 80,000 capacity Lusail Stadium.

Sales have been suspended until late September when the last batches will be up for grabs.


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