Over 20% of Wi-Fi hot-spots in FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities have cybersecurity issues

According to Kaspersky Lab research, 7,176 of approximately 32,000 public Wi-Fi networks in FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities do not use traffic encryption. This makes them potentially unsafe for use by football fans visiting the cities. The results suggest that fans should take care of their personal data, especially while using open Wi-Fi connections around the FIFA World Cup games.  

Global events always result in a concentration of people connecting to networks to upload posts, stay in touch with loved ones, and share the fun with others. However, at the same time, these networks can be used to transfer financial and other valuable information across the Internet. And it’s this information that third parties – not necessarily criminals – can intercept and use for their own purposes.

Kaspersky Lab’s findings are based on an analysis of public Wi-Fi spots in 11 FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities, including Saransk, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Volgograd, Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Sochi, Rostov, Kaliningrad, and Saint Petersburg. The results show that so far not all wireless access points have encryption and authentication algorithms – aspects that are essential for Wi-Fi networks to remain secure. This means that hackers only need to be located near an access point to intercept network traffic and get confidential information from unwitting or unprepared users.

The three cities with the highest percentage of unreliable Wi-Fi networks are Saint Petersburg (37%), Kaliningrad (35%), and Rostov (32%). In contrast, the safest places were relatively small towns – including Saransk (only 10% of Wi-Fi spots are open), and Samara (17% of Wi-Fi spots are open). Almost two-thirds of all public Wi-Fi networks in these locations use the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2) protocol family for traffic encryption, a protocol which is considered to be one of the most secure for Wi-Fi use.

Encryption type used in public Wi-Fi hotspots in FIFA World Cup host cities

Still, it should be noted that even reliable WPA/WPA2 networks can allow brute-force and dictionary attacks, as well as key reinstallation attacks, meaning they are not absolutely secure.

The lack of traffic encryption, coupled with large-scale events – like the FIFA World Cup – make wireless Wi-Fi networks a target for criminals who want easy access to user data. Despite about two-thirds of all access points in FIFA World Cup host cities using encryption based on the most secure Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2) protocol family, even these access points can’t be considered secure if the password is visible to everyone. Our research shows, once again, that cybersecurity involves addressing not just certain aspects, but the entire infrastructure. FIFA World Cup 2018 has confirmed that the event itself is secure – but users should be aware that clearly its host cities’ public Wi-Fi hotspots are often not,” said Denis Legezo, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

If you are going to visit FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities and use open Wi-Fi networks while there, remember to follow several simple rules to help protect your personal data:

  • Whenever possible, connect via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). With a VPN, encrypted traffic is transmitted over a protected tunnel, meaning criminals won’t be able to read your data, even if they gain access to it.
  • Do not trust networks that are not password-protected, or have easy-to-guess or easy-to-find passwords.
  • Even if a network requests a strong password, you should remain vigilant. Fraudsters can find out the network password at a coffee shop, for example, and then create a fake connection with the same password. This allows them to easily steal personal user data. You should only trust network names and passwords given to you by employees of the establishment.
  • To maximize your protection, turn off your Wi-Fi connection whenever you are not using it. This will also save your battery life. We also recommend disabling automatic connections to existing Wi-Fi networks.
  • If you are not 100% sure the wireless network you are using is secure, but you still need to connect to the Internet, try to limit yourself to basic user actions such as searching for information. You should refrain from entering your login details for social networks or mail services, and definitely do not perform any online banking operations or enter your bank card details anywhere. This will avoid situations where your sensitive data or passwords are intercepted and then used for malicious purposes later on.
  • To avoid being a target for cyber criminals, you should enable the “always use a secure connection” (HTTPS) option in your device settings. Enabling this option is recommended when visiting any website you think may lack the necessary protection.
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