What We Can Take Away from the Milwaukee Bucks Data Breach

Large sports leagues are no strangers to the spotlight, and basketball is no different. The latest scandal? Last week, a major security incident put the NBA on center stage. The Milwaukee Bucks basketball team had their financial information stolen by cybercriminals, thanks to a very convincing email scam.

Here’s what happened: The Bucks fell for a cybercriminal email tactic called phishing. This is when a crook simply pretends to be somebody else, using a phony identity to appear credible and win over your trust. In the case of The Bucks, a staffer received an email from an imposter who claimed to be team president Peter Feigin. Fooled by this pump fake, the employee sent the entire team’s W2 forms to the criminal.

The reality is, it isn’t unheard of for individuals to be phished by similar tactics, resulting in private information stolen. As a result of this incident, The Bucks management has offered players credit monitoring services—but damage control is never as strong as proactive prevention from the get-go. If a criminal gets the opportunity to sprint off on a fast break, they’ve already gained an advantage.

In addition to reminding us of persistent threats to our sensitive data, the breach hit a common refrain: Just as the NBA relies more and more on digital information, so do we.

Think about it: In 2013, the NBA installed advanced cameras in its twenty-nine stadiums to capture every player’s movements over the course of a season. The newly available quantities of data ushered in a revolution for basketball. To this day, analysts obsess over reams of data to reveal strengths and weaknesses of individuals and teams. To fans mesmerized in the dramatic moments of a fourth quarter, all this may appear invisible, but behind-the-scenes analytics are essential in the modern NBA.

Our digital lives are the same. In the background, technology supports pretty much everything we do. Sending messages from a phone, using online banking to transfer funds, and logging in to a social media service all relies on digital input. Every time you move your position on the court of life, it’s shaped by today’s digital revolution.

That’s why The Bucks data breach is so important. This incident is part of a larger pattern that goes beyond major sports organizations. With greater dependence on technology across industries, there are more vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could potentially exploit.

Using the NBA’s use of analytics as an example, it’s clear that digital services will only become a larger part of our lives. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep yourself safe (basketball metaphors and all):

  • Defend the paint of your personal information. To avoid phishing scams, be careful with any information you give out online—be wary, as criminals are skilled at posing as trusted figures and businesses. Be tenacious with your sensitive data. Just as basketball teams are more defensive near the basket, don’t give cybercriminals an easy shot to snag your identity.
  • Keep your game plan to yourself. Malicious hackers can use public information to create their phishing schemes. The more they know about you, the easier it is for them to earn your trust. Just as NBA teams don’t tell opponents the details of their game plans, be careful what you share publicly online. 
  • Double-team opponents with layered passwords. If one account is compromised, it shouldn’t be game over. Think of your valuable data as being stored in a team of accounts online. Criminals who get through to one shouldn’t be able to gain entry to all of them. Have unique, complex passwords for each service you use.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.


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