I just returned from Brazil where the anticipation around the 2014 FIFA World Cup was astounding. Even though Brazil has won the Word Cup several times, this is the first year they've hosted since 1950. As with many countries where soccer ("football") inspires nationalistic pride, promotes escapism or more simply provides the zenith of sports entertainment, most Brazilians have an insatiable hunger. The media, event sponsors and retailers are more than happy to overindulge their appetites. From clothing and restaurants to television and Internet the World Cup is everywhere.
The Phishing Landscape
Understanding the proclivities of these fans gives criminals an advantage. The World Cup provides a window of opportunity and a tremendous vehicle for online fraud such as phishing. Not only do the targets accept that they will receive a barrage of World Cup-related solicitations, but they often desire said solicitations and are excited to "click." This "perfect storm" isn't specific to the World Cup. Phishing scams are often associated with current events such as:
- Entertainment in the form of movie trailers, awards and celebrity photos
- Sporting events with large, preferably global audiences
- Natural disasters, political elections and military actions
- Viral videos of animals seeing themselves in mirrors
Unfortunately for the targets of phishing, the fraudsters have nefarious ulterior motives. The fraudsters may be interested in identity theft, stealing credentials, stealing financial information, or locking your system and holding it for ransom. Or maybe the fraudsters just want to add your device to their botnet army to be controlled at will. Regardless of their motive, you have something they want. The results of phishing can impact individuals and organizations including depleted bank accounts, credit debt, sensitive/personal data theft, countless hours of negotiation with financial institutions, stress, and the list goes on.
The risks to the criminals are low. This is because the likelihood of being apprehended and the severity of the punishment for phishing -- and most cybercrimes, depending on the country -- are low. Thus legal deterrence is ineffective. Additionally, the complexities of international law and extradition means that criminals can reside and operate in cybercrime-friendly countries, much like pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries that stimulated the economy in Jamaica and provided protection from the Spanish in exchange for a safe haven.
While there is no anti-phishing panacea that will mitigate all threats, there are technical and non-technical controls that can reduce the risk of a phishing attack being successful. Here are 15 safeguards to consider.
With events like the World Cup where information is flooding our laptops, tablets and smartphones from all directions, it is important not to get so caught up in the moment that we forget the criminals are working overtime. By considering these 15 safeguards and successfully mitigating phishing attacks, you're negatively impacting the criminal revenue stream and making this type of fraud less appealing.