Social Media Cyber-Risk Skyrockets as Olympics Get Underway

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As the world counts down to the Olympic Games opening ceremony, cyber-risk has been ratcheting up around the event.

From Olympics-themed apps that steal or leak data, to fraudulent social media accounts used for phishing attacks, the risks to viewers at home or those abroad are substantial for this year’s games, according to Proofpoint research.

Consider: Social media content on Olympics-themed accounts has increased 200% in the two months leading up to the games. At the same time, potentially malicious content has increased by 60%. This kind of content can include profanity, pornography, trademark violations and spam posts, while embedded links can lead to suspicious or compromised websites.

A staggering 42% consisted of profanity and adult material. And 15% of Olympics-related social media accounts were fraudulent, the researchers have uncovered. Many of those feature illegal live streaming, phishing, illegal or fake ticket sales, and more. A full 82% were impostor accounts, with misleading use of Olympic or sponsor brand elements to attract followers and interaction.

Some cyber-criminals were also discovered to be on legitimate webpages trying to scam victims through targeted attacks. In one example, attackers emulated a major airline's Twitter account and tweeted malicious links to an Olympics sponsor. These links delivered malware to vulnerable PCs.

There are thousands of mobile apps associated with the Olympics and sponsor brands—Proofpoint found over 4,500 risky apps on Android and iOS, including clearly malicious apps with the ability to take over mobile devices.

“While the physical safety of athletes and in-person attendees in Rio has dominated headlines around the 2016 Olympics, digital safety is also a critical concern,” researchers said, in a blog. “Over the coming weeks, fans worldwide will be tracking their favorite athletes and brands will be interacting on a virtual world stage. Enjoy the games safely, whether from the sidelines in Rio or on a screen halfway around the world.”

Photo © lazyllama/

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