In a story that reads a little bit like Robin Hood meets the internet, hacker group Anonymous Brasil says they are using Operation Hacking Cup (#OpHackingCup) to protest social injustices surrounding the World Cup through a series of DDoS and website defacement attacks. Claiming to have made 141 attacks since the start of the World Cup, the group first tweeted about one of their most recent attacks on the Brazilian Federal Police Monday morning. While the political nature of this hacktivism makes for an interesting story, cybersecurity concerns at the World Cup—and other large sporting events—is a familiar issue as our reliance on technology continues to increase.
Monday morning, Anonymous Brasil announced a recent attack from their twitter handle @AnonBRNews, tweeting: “#OpHackingCup #OpWorldCup Brazilian Federal Police #Hacked. We had access to the internal system.” On Facebook, the group listed a collection of user names and passwords along with a link to the Brazilian Federal Police website login page, claiming to have retrieved operations-related documents as well as email exchanges. I reached out to the Brazilian Federal Police, but have not yet received a response.
Keeping score of their alleged attacks, Anonymous Brasil listed the following statistics on their website: “Anonymous 141 x FIFA 0.” In an anonymous interview, a member of Anonymous, who asked to be identified by the twitter handle @AnonBRNews, explained, “Some attacks are relatively superficial and almost no effect, but most of them had full access to government servers, and all its contents.”
According to @AnonBRNews, Anonymous noticed social injustices occurring in South Africa during the World Cup four years ago. “It repeated here in Brazil. We do not want the injustices committed by FIFA, its sponsors and governments to be perpetuated,” @AnonBRNews explained. “Anonymous is an ideal that struggle for freedom and the fight against corruption. Attacks on websites have several goals: to obtain sensitive information, make a statement to the public, show of force and establish a condition that ‘we are always watching’, and even financial loss. Hacktivism is able to achieve all these goals.”
Anonymous is an international hacktivism group, whose splinter group LulzSec received a good deal of publicity with the arrest of the group’s de facto leader Sabu in 2012. A 2012 report by Imperva provides insight into Anonymous’ attack strategy, which utilizes skilled hackers as well as laypeople to help with DDoS attacks. The hacking operation falls into three phases: first, recruiting and communications to spread the word about the justification for the attack through social media; second, reconnaissance and application attack by skilled hackers in an attempt to data; and third, DDoS attack with help from laypeople if data breach attempts fail. This pattern appears to be playing out in the Operation Hacking Cup attacks as well.
“The ability to leverage a brand like Anonymous is powerful,” explains Raj Samani, CTO for McAfee EMEA. He notes that is it is often difficult to determine who is behind the attacks, but the name Anonymous provides political leverage and can amplify the message of any group of individuals who claim the title.
While the Anonymous attacks are specific to the politics of this particular World Cup, cybersecurity concerns are unsurprisingly common at sporting events of this magnitude. “As our reliance on technology increases, we need to have security in place,” Samani says. “Without a shadow of a doubt, preserving the security and privacy of individuals during these times is one of the most important things.”
A report released this month by Symantec about cybersecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean notes the increased risk of cybercrime in Brazil due to the World Cup, reporting that Anonymous issued threats against FIFA, the Brazilian Government, and corporate sponsors before the games began. Brazil already pays a high price for cybercrime with the total cost reaching $8 million in 2013, according to the report. Additionally, besides Anonymous, there are a variety of malware operations, phishing attacks and email scams linked to the World Cup, including malware-infested websites and spam emails offering free or cheap game tickets.
As Anonymous hopes to gain political leverage through their attacks while joining other hackers in collecting information and money through World Cup-related hacktivism, Samani urges the public to use common sense, especially when it comes to spam emails. Even Google searches can be suspect, and McAfee recently released a report which listed the 10 most dangerous World Cup players to Google, based on the malware attached to websites bearing their names. (Christiano Ronaldo tops the list).
So whether you are at home or in Brazil, enjoy watching the World Cup, but be on alert to ensure that losses only occur on the soccer field.