UPDATED: Will Rio Olympics herald a carnival of cyber-crime?

Research from Fortinet FortiGuard Labs suggests that as far as cyber-threats are concerned, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro deserve special attention.

This, says Fortinet, is courtesy of Brazil not prioritising cyber-threats for a start. The World Economic Forum's ranking of global risks has Brazilian concerns over cyber-attacks at number 23 and data fraud at number 16 despite hosting the games. To put that into perspective, the US, Germany and Japan all rate cyber-attacks at number one.

Then there's the volume of malicious domain registrations in Brazil, with growth at 83 percent compared to 16 percent globally between April and June this year. This spike can only suggest that criminals are getting ready for an Olympic cyber-sprint.

Menlo Security analysed the top 50 most visited sites in Brazil this week, and according Solutions Architect EMEA's Jason Steer “a social networking site comes in at number one, with news and media sites also making the list” which are prime candidates for phishing. Indeed, Steer told that “some of the background sites in the top 50 are already categorised as phishing.”

Some 18 percent of that top 50, the Menlo Security research reveals, execute more than 50 pieces of JavaScript just by visiting the home page, and the top website in Brazil executes 216 scripts from 34 background domains that cannot be stopped without specific browser security plugins. Oh, and 14 of the top 50 are running vulnerable services with Microsoft-IIS/6.0 (which was released in 2003 remember) being the oldest software in use. asked the security industry what it saw as the main threats which are likely to take podium places during the Rio Olympics? “On the average user's side, both locals and visitors should also be wary of the potential novelty of fake mobile apps claiming to offer Olympic related services” says Limor S. Kessem, executive security advisor, IBM Security Systems ,who continues “Once downloaded, these apps will likely push aggressive ads to the user, redirecting them to phishing sites, fake ecommerce sites, overlay fake screens to demand ransom from the users, or install malware on the device.” Four years back, Russian websites claiming to be legitimate app stores offered a fraudulent version of the London 2012 Official Mobile Game containing malware for example.

Phil Buck, senior threat intelligence analyst at Nettitude, warns that “Brazil has a vibrant underground market and criminals a blatant disregard for the law, openly using social media to advertise their services.” He sees point-of-sale malware and ATM skimmers as “undoubtedly featuring during the games” and targeting visitors as opposed to the Games themselves.

Gareth O'Sullivan, EMEA director of solutions architecture at WhiteHat Security, warns that it isn't just visitors to the Olympics who will be targeted. "You only have to look back to the London Olympics, about a year after it was widely reported that a credible cyber-attack on the electricity infrastructure supplying the games had been averted.” So, it's not entirely unreasonable to suggest that the Rio Olympics “could face anti-government hacktivist activity or potentially terrorist-related cyber threats to critical infrastructure.”

All that said and done, however, Wieland Alge, VP & GM EMEA at Barracuda Networks, insists that the focus will remain on visitors. “Let's remember that the primary attraction of these big global events is large audiences and eyeballs” Alge told SC, adding “mass events like these are rarely used to try out new malware, so we always expected to see lots of recycled tools delivered to a very broad global audience.” Sure enough, back in May the industry started to observe fake ticketing websites and Rio-themed phishing emails.

Chris Hodson, CISO EMEA at Zscaler, also thinks phishing will most likely romp off with the gold medal for cyber-audacity. “At previous Games, Zscaler found that 80 percent of Olympic web domains were found to be scams and spams. This is an easy win for cyber-criminals, so I expect Phishing to be ripe again in 2016.” Zscaler has already found cases of exploit kit traffic coming from Olympics-related content and predicts that more attacks will target users with emails and attachments around further Olympics-related content, discounts and schedules.

Richard Cassidy, cyber-security evangelist at Alert Logic, warns that visitors to the Olympics must always remain vigilant when accessing online resources and ensure the site is typed correctly. “Don't accept unusual certificate requests or application install requests from websites that you don't trust” Cassidy says “especially sites that are informational only and that you don't need to transact with.”

While Pedro Abreu, chief strategy officer at ForeScout, pointed out in conversation with SC that at the recent Republican and Democratic National Conventions in the US, ForeScout witnessed more than 35 percent of devices connecting to official networks were unmanaged and IoT ones. “Without the proper security measures” Abreu says “these devices can represent an easy gateway into the larger network.” Indeed, at an event like the Olympics where travellers will be actively looking to connect their devices to public and private Wi-Fi networks, it's easy to imagine hackers launching attacks that take advantage of the lax security to access data stored on them, or gain entry to other networks that they have permission to join.

So just how well is Brazil actually prepared for this level of cyber-attack activity that will inevitably emerge across the coming weeks? “Brazil is one of the top players in global cyber-crime, and it comes in at tenth on the list of countries with the most malicious activity” Kevin Foster, testing services manager at MTI Technology warns, continuing “a recent report also found that around a quarter of all Wi-Fi networks around the Olympic venues in Rio are unsecure.”

Which means the onus will be on the individual to ensure their data is protected, not the state nor the telecom provider or the sporting venue. As it is almost impossible to tell if a connection is secure or not, it is better to err on the side of caution and invest in preventative measures ahead of travelling abroad.

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