march madness malware

March Madness? More Like Malware Madness: How to Stay Safe

March 21, 2017 | By

The end of the college basketball season could be a slam dunk for cybercriminals this year. In 2017, March Madness has led to a big increase in phishing attempts and other forms of b-ball-connected malware. We are seeing a startling number of sites purporting to be places where you can create brackets, read up on the teams, or stream live video. But they aren’t all what they seem…

Here’s what you need to watch out for when it comes to March Madness malware.

Spearphishing for Fans

Some emails have been circulating that directly target folks who are already participating in brackets. Beware of these and follow the usual good email hygiene: make sure you recognize the sender, that things are spelled correctly, and that they aren’t asking for personal or financial details. When in doubt, report as spam and log into your bracket app. Definitely don’t click on links or download attachments if you suspect phishing or anything feels “off” to you.

Bait-and-Switch Video Streaming

Hoping to catch the games live online? Beware: Some cybercriminals are setting up video players where they purport to be streaming the games, but will instead try to load malware onto your device. In other cases, criminals will post links on forums or social media sites where they claim you can click through and watch the game. You’re better off watching it on TV or skipping it altogether; live-streaming isn’t legal in many cases, and odds are pretty decent you could run into some nasty malware.

Fake Betting Sites

Before you enter that credit card number to place a wager on your well thought-out bracket, you want to make sure that the website is legitimate and not going to steal your money. The best way to make sure a site is real is to check the URL. If anything looks funny or misspelled, best to stay away. Stick to sites you are familiar with, and if you have even an inkling that something is wrong, don’t disclose financial or personal information.

False Search Engine Results

SEO is a game like any other, and cybercriminals are getting pretty good at it. If you Google “March Madness bracket,” odds are good at least one of the results that pops up will direct you to a malware-infected site. The Strongarm team is tracking these sites and adding them to our blacklist. To steer clear, make sure to only visit reputable sites.

Bandwidth Bulges

Finally, bandwidth is an issue that many businesses should be watching out for. While it may not necessarily indicate malware, if you see that your office’s network is streaming way more video than usual (you can use Strongarm’s Insights feature to keep an eye on network traffic), you may want to encourage your employees to forego in-office game viewing. This can slow down your network for everyone and obviously isn’t ideal for productivity. Instead, consider airing the games at lunchtime from a cable-connected TV to cut down on the possibility of slowing down the entire network or spreading malware.

March Madness Malware: Better Safe than Sorry

While it’s good to keep yourself and the other users on your network well-educated about the dangers of malware attacks related to national events like March Madness, it’s an even better idea to install a safety net that will ensure no attacks succeed.

With a tool like Strongarm on your side, you don’t have to worry about your users clicking a bad bracket-betting link or trying to stream the games from a compromised site. Strongarm will protect your entire network from the threat of malware, March Madness or none. We call that a win.

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