Goal! Fraud Scores Big at World Cup.

Shocking group stage exits, goals at the last minute and a slew of penalty shootouts made the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia a global spectacle. But when France and Croatia play at the final, it will be the hackers and scammers who will become the real winners.

“Hosts Russia have blown away any concerns prior to the tournament by putting on a well-organized, safe and good-spirited show. However, according to the latest data from the ThreatMetrix Digital Identity Network danger does still lurk – but the danger is online,” Alisdair Faulkner, Chief Products Officer, ThreatMetrix shared in a written commentary.

Online scams reared its ugly head even before the tournament began. FIFA highlighted the danger of email scams that trick individuals to expose their personal and financial data. What was not discussed was the impact on businesses.

“However, businesses are also being hit with attacks, with the major deviations from normal transaction trends primarily hitting the travel and online gambling sectors,” Faulkner added.  

Gambling firms face the full force of the attack. They weathered a significant spike in transaction volumes coming from Russia. Mobile transactions saw an 850% growth in size.

“As the tournament captures the imagination of people all over the world and an estimated 1 million fans travel to Russia, online betting companies need to ensure they are equipped to process cross-border transactions quickly, efficiently and securely,” Faulkner wrote.

Bots were scoring goals way before the start of the World Cup. ThreatMetrix detected a series of bot attacks on online betting companies that tested the latter’s defenses.  They were finding out if the companies will not notice high-scale attacks when transaction volumes are abnormally high.

"For example, in the case of one major European betting company, during peak periods bot attacks made 40% of daily traffic. Organizations experiencing high seasonal online volumes need an accurate way to detect human behavior from automated attacks without slowing down performance and delaying true consumers," Faulkner said.

Fraudsters were not far behind. ThreatMetrix data showed that they were capitalizing on the higher than normal transaction volumes on travel firms.

“We are seeing elevated attack rates coming among transactions originating from Russia, meaning fraudsters in the country are deliberately targeting this industry. The key attack vector is identity spoofing, as fraudsters look to use stolen and synthesized identity credentials to open up fraudulent new accounts, make fraudulent payments and take over existing accounts, which often store personal and credit card information,” Faulkner described. 

Faulkner urged travel firms to face up to this threat reality and improve fraud prevention.

“As travel companies invest in digital strategies that are centered around lowering barriers and increasing conversion rates, they need to employ fraud prevention technologies that work completely behind the scenes and require no additional steps from trusted users.”

Faulkner also noted that firms should not write off fraudsters as mere opportunists. “

"Fraudsters are essentially opportunists – however in today's world they are sophisticated opportunists operating global cybercrime rings to deliver well-organized and thought-out attacks on areas that they see to be at higher-than-average risk," he wrote.