This sponsored post is produced by BitDefender. 

Brazil’s World Cup kicked off with glamour, noise, and graffiti; but football fans are not the only ones joining the party. Big scammers and petty cyber-crooks also packed their bags before the Cup started, filling them with dangerous goodies such as fake invitations, bogus tickets, phishing web sites, and DDoS “survival kits.”

After all, Brazilian hackers have threatened to disrupt the World Cup with attacks ranging from denial-of-service to data theft since the beginning of the year. Our research shows that Brazil is one of the most targeted countries in the world. This recently convinced us to start working with the country’s Centre of Studies, Response and Treatment of Security Incidents (CERT) to map botnets and other e-threats and to reverse-engineer malware and suspicious files.

If you just joined Brazil’s World Cup or plan to in coming days, here’s some security advice to help you stay off scammers’ radar:

1. Beware rental scams & bogus hotels

Cyber-criminals have created dozens of fake rental car services, hotels, and rental websites to lure football fans with extraordinary offers. Before sending your money and personal data online, check Internet references. Other uses have already been duped by these sites and have complained. If you’re dealing with a new website, check WhoIS information on the Internet. Look for oddities such as a short period of registration (1 to 2 years) or an email address registered with a personal or anonymous e-mail provider. No serious rental car service or hotel will have an address registered

Figure 1 Cyber-criminals are experienced in designing remote access computer Trojans (RATs) to feast on credit card data from hotel point-of-sale applications.

Above: Figure 1 Cyber-criminals are experienced in designing remote access computer Trojans (RATs) to feast on credit card data from hotel point-of-sale applications.

2. Don’t use pirated software

More than half of Brazil’s computers run pirated software, according to Reuters, which makes them more vulnerable to malware and cyber-attacks. Be careful when making online payments and typing your personal data on computers other than your own.

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Above: Figure 2 Several fake Banco de Brasil web sites were recently loaded with malware

3. Learn to recognize phishing attacks

It’s open phishing season all year round. Dozens of websites using the World Cup theme are created daily, and 1.2 per cent of worldwide attacks are targeting Brazil, according to Bitdefender Labs. Banco do Brasil continues to be one of phishers’ favorite targets, and several online replicas of the banking institution were recently loaded with malware. Avoid making payments through dubious gateways and be careful with phishing attacks that aim for your credit card data and other personal details.


Above: Figure 3 One of the most recent Banco do Brasil copycats

4. Be careful with Wi-Fi

Is this an oxymoron? Well, it shouldn’t be. Like many countries, Brazil has both dangerous and safer Wi-Fi networks. Connecting to an unsecured network poses serious risks to your laptop and data. A Bitdefender study revealed 85 percent of people choose to connect to a free Wi-Fi, despite clear warnings that their data can be viewed and accessed by a third party. To avoid data sniffing, be careful when surfing from public Wi-Fi networks during the World Cup. For online payments, always use an encrypted connection or a secured and specially designed browser.

Bitdefender_Wi-Fi picture

5. Sorry, you haven’t won Brazil’s National FIFA Lottery

In the last couple of weeks, Bitdefender has blocked an increasing number of “wining notifications” promising exciting prizes ranging from $35,000 to $1 billion. Don’t open such emails or social media messages. You have to first play the lottery to win. And even if you do, the lottery won’t email you to ask for an advance fee or seek personal information that it should already have. Such scammy messages may also appear to come from “FIFA Interactive World Cup 2014” or the Coca-Cola Company in the UK (seriously?).

6. Reinforce your password

Now is the best time to change your attitude towards those old “1234” passwords. With many hackers wandering around Brazil, password-protecting and encrypting all your devices is a must. Use dedicated software to encrypt your data and install a mobile security solution that includes anti-theft. This will help you track your device and lock or wipe your data if your mobile is lost or stolen.

With all this advice in mind, football fans the world over will be ready to witness sports history in the making while staying safe. Happy World Cup, everybody!

Chief security strategist Catalin Cosoi was one of the first researchers to join antivirus software provider Bitdefender, and he is now focused on energizing and publicizing the company’s technological progress.

Cosoi specializes in pattern extraction and recognition technologies, with an emphasis on neural networks and clustering algorithms. His technical achievements have so far materialized in four granted patents and a series of classification technologies being implemented mostly in Bitdefender software. As a consequence of his interests, he is also pursuing a PhD in natural language processing.

He lists his professional goals as “gaining a Nobel prize and achieving clinical immortality.” He is married and lives in Bucharest, Romania, at the rare times when his job isn’t sending him around the globe.

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