Cybercriminals are actively exploiting the growing Olympic fever as the games in Rio de Janeiro draw closer, targeting sports fans with fake ticket scams, malware-ridden emails and phishing attacks, according to a report from Kaspersky Lab. The cybersecurity firm says scammers have been selling fake tickets to the event since early 2015, a year before the games are scheduled to take place.
In every major sports or cultural event, hundreds of thousands of fans, government entities and organizations investing in the global event often become the target of cybercrime. Capitalising on the rising frenzy, excitement and increasing reliance on technology, digital pickpockets use a variety of methods to trick people into handing over their personal and financial information.
According to Kaspersky, the most frequent topic in spam emails is fake lottery wins for the ticket lottery organised by the International Olympic Committee and the Brazilian government. In these emails, fraudsters try to convince their victims that their email was selected from a large list and that they must respond with their personal information to receive their prize.
Other fake emails include offers for various goods and services including new TVs to watch the sports events and magic pills that promise to make the recipient an "Olympic champion," researchers Tatyana Shcherbakova and Andrey Kostin said.
While most of these spam emails are in English, some are in Portuguese as well due to this year's Olympic Games' venue.
Fraudulent ticketing services for the Rio Games have also been popping up recently, which Kaspersky Lab considers "the most dangerous threat".
The firm reports that some cybercriminals are registering domains with names containing "rio" and "rio2016". These fake websites, many of which are "very well made," even use cheap SSL certificates to provide "https" web addresses to make them appear credible, thus making it harder for users to distinguish between fake web pages from the official ones.
"According to our research, the creation of fake sites usually involves well organized, fraudulent, international gangs," Andrey Kostin, senior web content analyst at Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement. "They split tasks, so that each small group is responsible for a separate part of the work. For example, one group creates websites, the other registers domains, another collects and sells the victims' personal information, etc."
In 2014, Brazil was ranked the most dangerous company for financial cyberattacks, according to an earlier Kaspersky report, due to vague legislation and fewer cybercrime arrests.
"In order to avoid falling victim to these fraudsters, sports fans should be savvy when they buy tickets," Kostin said. "They should only trust authorized resellers, no matter how attractive the low prices from other resources can be."