Cybercriminals exploit Olympic Games to attack computer users

On July 25 various cybercrime experts including the security firm ThreatMetrix are issuing warnings to the public in an effort to protect computer users from cybercriminals that are exploiting the Olympics. It is estimated that more than a billion people worldwide will be watching the games or searching for scores on PCs or mobile devices.

“With such a large audience seeking information on the Olympic Games, cybercriminals will seize this opportunity to attack PCs, mobile devices and even tablets. Cybercrime today is so advanced that in many cases users are completely unaware they are being attacked. The Olympic audience needs to be vigilant when browsing the Internet and researching the games,” ThreatMetrix chief technical officer Andreas Baumhof said.

“Whether you are searching for Michael Phelps or real-time medal count updates, make sure you are using sites that can be trusted – mainstream news sites, or better yet the official Olympics website,” he added.

“From the hacker’s perspective, this is the mother of all opportunities,” said Larry Ponemon, president of the Ponemon Institute, an Internet think tank.

The London Olympics is particularly vulnerable because it will be the most technologically interconnected, social media-driven event yet, security analysts said. “The difference from four years ago is that there are lots more people using the Internet, especially through their mobile phones,” said Gary McGraw, chief technology officer of Virginia software security consulting firm Cigital.

The goal of cyber criminals will be to entice consumers to download malware applications or viruses. People interested in the Olympics need to be aware of the heightened risk especially against mobile devices and tablets. Another method of attack will be through third-party apps.

Experts recommend that consumers avoid unauthorized mobile and tablet apps. Approved and well-known news sites will have official apps that can be used to follow the Games. ThreatMetrix warns that consumer devices can be attacked when malicious applications are downloaded, such as the spam-distributing iPhone apps.

Cybercriminals will most likely set up valid-looking sites that not only have information about the games but also will download malware. It is critical that people only use mainstream news stories about the Olympics. That is also true about following Olympics-related tweets. Many will include shortened links and users can’t tell where they lead, until clicked upon. Additionally you can expect disguised links such as @CNNInternatDesk. Does it belong to CNN? Probably not.

Most people use the top resources when conducting online searches. Cybercriminals can use black hat search engine optimization (SEO) to push malicious links to the top of search results and poison your computer once that photo or article is clicked on.

You’ll need to be especially cautious about any photo or video that is forwarded to you, even by a friend. Their computer may have been attacked and is sending out infected posts to all the people in the first person’s address book.

“All of the cybercrime risk associated with the Olympics can be overwhelming to consumers. However, simple steps can be taken to avoid malware attacks associated with the Olympics. These steps include keeping all (anti-malware) software up-to-date, using only official Olympic sites and applications and being hyperaware of all web and mobile device activity. Don’t click on any link that comes your way, even if it looks interesting – it may be a costly click,” Baumhof said.

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