August may mean the last days of summer vacation and start of back to school for some, but for die hard NFL fans it also means the return of football (American football that is). And for many this also means the start of their fantasy football league. And though these fantasy teams are not real, the money and numbers behind them are real. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) reported that approximately $1.67 billion was spent on fantasy football in 2012 and in 2013, there were approximately 25.8 million fantasy football players in the United States. It’s one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 7.6%. A quick Google search of “fantasy football” generates 397,000,000 results. And why is this important? Because hackers are aware of these numbers and like anything else, they go where the numbers are. With fantasy footballers searching online looking for in-depth information on their players, you could be exposing yourself to risk. Participating in a fantasy football leagues and cyber gambling are two of the biggest attractors of cybercrime. So as you’re getting ready to “get in the game,” make sure you’re aware of the risks: Viruses and worms. These can take the form of attachments with emails or instant messaging. If you open an attachment, download something or install software that’s malicious, you’re in for a nasty surprise. Malware. Malicious software can be installed simply by visiting an infected site. Crooks may use social engineering to lure you into visiting a website that then downloads malware and installs it on your computer or mobile device. Or searching for information on that cornerback that you think is going to be your “sleeper” could lead you to malicious sites as well. Social interaction. This now comes with many online games (e.g., chat rooms, instant messaging), but it also comes with a heightened risk of infiltration by criminals. Thieves will find vulnerable spots amid all the workings of an online gaming community and get ahold of your personal information—which can lead to identity theft as well as maxing out your credit card. Gee, they can even pose as family members and trick you into sending them money or revealing private information. So, what can you do?
- Use caution when opening attachments or downloading files: If you receive an attachment in an email or instant message…think very carefully and hard before you open that attachment. If it seems to be from a familiar person, first contact that person (don’t hit “reply” to do this; do it separately) to verify that the individual sent you an attachment.
- Keep things up to date: Make sure you keep your browser and operating system as well as any mobile apps, are up to date so you’re protected from any known security holes. And consider using browser protection, like McAfee® SiteAdvisor®, that protects you from going to risky sites.
- Monitor app permissions frequently: Even good apps can go bad, which is why it’s important to monitor what and how much they have access to. Check app permissions to make sure they can’t get a hold of more information than they need. McAfee® Mobile Security for Android not only reviews permissions of downloaded apps, but also provides you with an app reputation report, based on a proprietary algorithm that takes into account the app category as well as the developer’s reputation.
- Use long, strong passwords: Make sure your passwords use mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols and it at least 14 characters in length. Never use sequential characters on a keyboard or words that can be found in a dictionary. No matter how many passwords you need, each one should be different. For helping building strong passwords that are memorable, go to www.passwordday.org.
- Back up your data: Make sure to back up all of your data, and never wait too long in between making new backups.
- Use comprehensive security software: A comprehensive security suite like McAfee LiveSafe™ service can detect and delete malware that finds its way onto your computer. It also comes with a password manager to help you remember all of your logins and browser protection to keep you from going to risky sites.
With the growth in mobile and social, fantasy football could become larger than the football industry itself, which will continue to attract the hackers, so make sure you stay abreast of the latest information to stay safe online!