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As technology plays an increasingly integral role in sports, from athlete performance monitoring to fan engagement, the importance of cybersecurity in the sports industry has become prevalent.
While sports organizations have long been focused on physical security, the rise of cyber threats poses new challenges that must be addressed. At least 70% of sports organizations have experienced cyber incidents or breaches.
infrastructure that powers sports organizations
This article will explore the unique cybersecurity risks facing the sports industry and examine the strategies sports organizations can employ to protect themselves and their stakeholders from cyber threats.Why do we need cybersecurity in sports?
According to a report, nearly all sports organizations have websites, social media accounts, and digital files collecting the personal data of customers, employees, and volunteers. According to National Cybersecurity Centre, more than 80% of respondents have online business systems that provide clients the option to book, pay for, or make purchases online (see Figure 1).
Source: National Cyber Security Centre
Figure 1: Which of the following, if any, does your organization currently have or use?1- Protection of sensitive data
Sports organizations collect and store sensitive data, including athlete and fan data, financial data, and intellectual property. Cybersecurity is essential to protect this data from unauthorized access, theft, or manipulation by cyber criminals.2- Reputation management
A cyber attack on a sports organization can cause significant reputational damage, leading to financial losses and loss of fan trust. Cybersecurity measures can help prevent such incidents and mitigate their impact if they do occur.
Fans expect their personal data to be protected and their interactions with sports organizations to be secure. Sports organizations can build and maintain fan trust by prioritizing cybersecurity and increasing engagement and revenue. This is also crucial for reputation management.3- Operational continuity
A cyber attack on a sports organization’s infrastructure can disrupt operations and lead to significant financial losses. By implementing cybersecurity measures, sports organizations can ensure their operations’ continuity, minimize downtime risk, and increase revenue.4- Compliance with regulations
Sports organizations are subject to various data privacy and security regulations (such as GDPR). By implementing cybersecurity measures, sports organizations can ensure compliance with these regulations and avoid penalties or legal issues.Top 5 Cybersecurity use cases in sports 1-Protecting athlete data
Athlete data, such as medical records and performance statistics, are valuable information that can be targeted by cybercriminals. For example, in 2023, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was hacked, and sensitive athlete data was leaked.
Sports organizations must ensure that athlete data is properly secured and access is strictly controlled to prevent similar incidents. Education on phishing attempts is a good choice of defense against this form of cyberattack. Preventing these assaults may be accomplished by being aware of the appearance of phishing emails.2-Securing online ticket sales
Online ticket sales are a common target for cybercriminals. Hackers can use phishing attacks to obtain credit card information or use bots to purchase tickets in bulk and resell them at inflated prices. Ticket fraud reports have doubled since 2023, and resell value of online tickets for almost whatever sporting event is known to fluctuate extremely.
Sports events comprise the largest segment of worldwide event tickets, and it has a projected market volume of over $28 billion in 2023.3-Preventing game-day cyber attacks
Cyber attacks during the game day can disrupt operations, cause financial loss, and potentially endanger athletes and spectators. An example of such game-day disruptions happened most recently during the 2023 World Cup semi-final match between France and Morocco. Due to in-app loading difficulties, the outage caused problems for certain FuboTV subscribers in viewing the full game. FuboTV argued that the outage was because of a cyber attack.4-Securing broadcasting infrastructure
Broadcasting infrastructure is a valuable target for cybercriminals, which can disrupt live broadcasts or steal valuable intellectual property. For example, In 2023, the French broadcaster resulted in the shutdown of 12 channels and the leak of sensitive information.5-Protecting fan data
Sports organizations collect fan data through online purchases, loyalty programs, and social media interactions. Fans are prone to phishing scams via mobile apps, and remotely managed systems are open to hackers.
This data can be targeted by cybercriminals and used for identity theft or other malicious purposes. Sports organizations must ensure that fan data is properly secured and access is strictly controlled.
See Figure 2 for an overview of the attack trends.
Source: National Cyber Security Centre
Figure 2: Attack Trends – Percentage of organizations reporting attack activityWhat are the cybersecurity challenges in sports? 1- Rapidly evolving threats
Cyber threats constantly evolve, making it difficult for sports organizations to keep up with the latest threats and vulnerabilities. Attackers are constantly looking for new ways to exploit system weaknesses, making it challenging for sports organizations to maintain strong cybersecurity measures.2- Complex supply chains
Sports organizations often work with many vendors and partners, creating a complex supply chain. This can make it challenging to ensure that all parties have adequate cybersecurity measures and that there are no vulnerabilities in the supply chain.3- Limited resources
Many sports organizations have limited resources to devote to cybersecurity, especially smaller organizations or those with limited budgets. This can make it difficult to implement and maintain strong cybersecurity measures.4- Legacy systems
Some sports organizations may still use legacy systems not designed with modern cybersecurity practices in mind. These systems can be difficult to secure and more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.5- Lack of awareness
Not all members of a sports organization may be aware of the importance of cybersecurity or how to practice good cyber hygiene. This can lead to human error or unintentional vulnerabilities.6- Cultural challenges
Some sports organizations may have a culture that does not prioritize cybersecurity or may see cybersecurity as a hindrance to innovation or operations. Implementing strong cybersecurity measures or getting stakeholders’ buy-in can make it difficult.
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He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Bilkent University and he received his master’s degree in International Politics from KU Leuven .
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