NFL Voices Cybersecurity Fears Over Online Draft

America's National Football League has expressed cybersecurity concerns over this Thursday's virtual draft.

Traditionally, the top draft picks wait in a central location for their names to be called. But this year, due to social distancing measures introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19, the selection process will be carried out online. 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be announcing each pick from the basement of his home in New York. Meanwhile, a group of 58 players expected to make the cut in the first two rounds will be live-streaming from their homes so viewers can see their reactions.

According to ESPN, each NFL team will use a modified version of Microsoft's Teams—a central messaging and communications app similar to Slack—to send in their picks. Microsoft has been working directly with teams to keep the process secure and to prevent any leakage of sensitive information.

A test run of the virtual draft is taking place today with all 32 of the league's teams. The NFL told Reuters that their security measures are “comprehensive and thoughtful,” but declined to specify exactly what they are. 

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is skeptical that the virtual draft can be carried out securely, despite what his IT team says. 

“They assure me we are doing everything humanly possible, and I remind them that that’s what Wells Fargo and all those other places said about our private information, so I have some real concerns," said Harbaugh.

“I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings. That would be preferable.”

The NFL is permitting clubs to use video-conferencing app Zoom for their internal communications but have said it must not be used between teams and the league office. Zoom made the headlines earlier this month when thousands of user videos were found online in an unsecured storage device.  

Speaking with ProFootballTalk's Peter King, Rams COO Kevin Demoff said: "Someone could hack into this Zoom, and you’re probably not going to learn a lot. Hacking into a team’s draft room on Zoom is probably a lot different. That would be my biggest concern just from an encryption standpoint of how do you have these conversations confidentially.”

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