Simple security tips for FIFA World Cup fans

Graham Cluley

The FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Brazil, with fans travelling to the country from around the globe in the hope that their country’s football team will make it to the grand final.

But if you’re travelling (whether it be to South America watch the world’s greatest soccer tournament, or a couple of days away on a business trip) what precautions should you take to stay safe online?

Here are some tips that can help prevent you from scoring a security own goal.

1. Encrypt your hard drive

Make sure your laptop’s hard drive is strongly encrypted, so that even if your computer is stolen the criminals won’t be able to access your data. There’s really no excuse to not fully encrypt your hard drives these days, as there is software built into most popular operating systems (BitLocker for Windows, FileVault 2 for Mac OS X) which can do it for free.

2. Use strong passwords

There’s no point fully encrypting your hard drive if you have chosen an easy-to-guess or simple-to-crack password. Also, remember to never use the same password in multiple places. And don’t forget – passwords should be like your toothbrush, you shouldn’t let anyone else use it.

You should also enable a passcode on your smartphone to prevent unauthorised access. iPhone and iPad users can turn off simple four-digit numerical passcodes to benefit from the extra security that a longer passcode including letters, numbers and symbols can bring.

Also, make sure that your smartphone or computer automatically locks after a period of inactivity.

3. Be suspicious of unsolicited email attachments and links

A typical trick used by online criminals is to trick users into opening emails by using social engineering tricks. For instance, the emails might claim that your credit card has been charged for an expensive purchase you have not made, or claim to offer sensational news of a celebrity death, or breaking news from the World Cup.

Opening unknown attachments or clicking on links contained inside unsolicited emails might expose your computer to the risk of being infected by malware or phished.

There’s also, if history is anything to go by, the very real risk of fraudsters attempt to turn you into a victim by spamming out scam messages, claiming you have won millions in a FIFA lottery or VIP tickets to the grand final in Rio De Janeiro.

4. Think twice before connecting to public WiFi hotspots

You may be anxious to jump on the net, but can you trust that WiFi connection? Criminals can easily set up wireless hotspots that pose as free, public internet connections – and intercept any sensitive information your computer or smartphone might be sending.

Generally speaking, it’s more secure to use a cellular connection than WiFi as it will avoid snooping hackers. But, of course, a cellular connection has its own disadvantages – such as often running slower than WiFi or coming complete with an expensive data roaming bill at the end of the month.

If you are worried about being monitored by eavesdroppers, it makes sense to sign-up for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt all of your internet traffic, and protect your privacy and confidentiality online.

In addition the VPN service might make it possible to unblock websites that have geographic restrictions, opening the opportunity for you to tune into your favourite TV show for their post match analysis.

5. Run decent security software, and keep it and your operating system up-to-date and fully patched

Your PC, your Mac, your Android smartphone should all be running anti-virus software – make sure you keep it up-to-date and don’t slack off the important job of ensuring that security patches for your operating system, Adobe and Oracle’s Java are promptly rolled out.

The argument for patches goes for Apple iPhones and iPads too, although right now there’s not a significant malware threat on the platform, and your greatest risk is more likely to lose the device or being phished.

6. Be careful where you charge your phone

Have you ever seen those kiosks which offer to recharge your smartphone for half an hour while you go off an do something more important?

Well, most of them are probably fine – but in the past hackers have created malicious charging kiosks to launch an attack known as juice-jacking.

In a nutshell, you believe that you have plugged your Android phone in to give it a quick power boost. But, unbeknownst to you, your data is being sucked down the USB cable so it can be read by hackers – and it’s even possible that malware could be being simultaneously pushed in the other direction, and onto your smartphone.

Maybe it would have been safer to have brought your charger with you, after all?

7. If you’re worried about how much personal data you have on your expensive smartphone, and the risk of losing it while out having fun, why not just buy a disposable replacement?

I have a £10 phone which I use to replace my regular smartphone when necessary. It doesn’t have WiFi, it doesn’t have internet access, it doesn’t even have a colour screen! But it can make phone calls, and I have no qualms at all – at its low price – about losing it.

What’s more – a cheap dumbphone’s battery life is *extraordinary* compared to the best that Android and Apple can offer.

Whether you’re planning to enjoy the World Cup from your living room sofa, or will be embracing the Brazilian carnival atmosphere of one of the world’s greatest sporting events, don’t forget to take good care of your security.

This article originally appeared on the Lumension blog.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

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