Expect spike in cyberattacks during Brazil Olympics

The upcoming contest could prove more problematic than ever for IT security pros and web users.
The upcoming contest could prove more problematic than ever for IT security pros and web users.

To cyberthieves, any newsworthy event is a target to exploit. The excitement of this year's Olympics in Brazil, which opens Friday, is just the latest ripe fruit for miscreants to go after.

Although the Olympics have been a target of cyberattacks as far back as the 2004 summer games in Greece, the upcoming contest could prove more problematic than ever for IT security professionals as analysis by experts indicates that computer systems in place for the festivities in Rio are a cause for anxiety.

That's because Brazil rated concerns about cyberattacks as #23, according to a ranking of global risks assembled by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

"This is concerning since countries like the U.S., Japan, Germany, Netherlands and a few others rank cyberattacks as their #1 business risk," according to a threat report [pdf] released by Fortinet on Tuesday. Given the high profile of the Olympic games, the report expected the risks of cyberattack and data theft to be ranked much higher for Brazil.

The study also found a spike in malicious and phishing artifacts in Brazil that in June outperformed the global median in some categories by as much as 65 percent. The attacks are only expected to escalate as the games procede. FortiGuard Labs has already detected indications of repeat techniques, such as domain lookalikes for payment fraud and malicious websites or URLs targeting event and government officials.

And the level of sophistication of attacks is enabling miscreants to persist inside systems in what the Fortinet team is calling “behavior blending,” a strategy that enables criminals to merge in with other users on a compromised network. Once valid user credentials are acquired, the intruders can assume identities to take over accounts and remain in the system undetected by software attempting to detect anomalous patterns.

As the Olympics arrive, expect man-in-the-middle attacks, drive-by/watering-hole attacks, malware-based attacks, sniffing/eavesdropping and physical access, says Jerry Irvine, member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Cybersecurity Leadership Council and CIO of Prescient Solutions.

There are multiple cyberthreats that will occur, he told SCMagazine.com on Tuesday. Using public Wi-Fi networks hackers have the ability to sniff, or eavesdrop, on the networks to copy all information going to and from the users' laptops, tablets and cell phones," he said. "Additionally, hackers have the ability to insert their systems into the middle of communications in a man-in-the-middle attack which can also allow copying of all data, as well as pushing malware to the end-user devices.

He also said that physical access to any device – even for a short period – can allow hackers to copy data, place malware or corrupt systems.

Already, hackers have been known to create malicious websites and applications that claim to provide travel discounts, other coupons, as well as tourist guide information for specific locations or exhibits, Irvine said. "These websites and applications may be advertised in search engines, websites and even physical signs placed at locations. Once users access a website or application, hackers have the ability to gain complete access and remote control of the users devices."

Irvine also warned that using emails, texts or downloads from websites, hackers have the ability to install malware that can steal or corrupt data, and provide and complete remote connectivity, including controlling web cams, audio and GPS.
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