How’s this for proof that the World Cup is immensely popular? Anti-spam filter solutions provider MessageLabs estimated this week that 25 percent of all spam is now World Cup-related.
Popular amongst spammers are emails that promise links to free live streams of the event, but instead lead to sites prompting users to download adware or enter their credit card numbers for bogus subscriptions. Some sites even use unpatched browser security vulnerabilities to automatically install malware.
However, it’s not just email spam anymore that tries to trick soccer fans into become part of a botnet or installing unwanted adware. In recent weeks, countless sites and blogs have sprung up that pretend to offer free live streams of the World Cup, oftentimes using SEO trickery to come up on top of Google’s search results. Some have even managed to get picked up by Google News.
“A few days ago we (noticed a) malicious SEO Google attack using several words like ‘Watch T20 World Cup Live’ or ‘Espn World Cup Schedule’,” Dmitry Bestuzhev, a senior virus analyst with Kaspersky Lab, told me via email this week. The sites were gaming Google to spread a dangerous trojan that’s known to steal passwords, amongst other things.
Another popular scam makes use of the fact that many users are flocking to live-streaming sites like Ustream and Justin.tv to follow sport events. Most live streaming providers nowadays have filtering solutions in place to prevent the unauthorized distribution of live sports. What’s left are streams that promise transmissions of specific games, but instead simply broadcast vaguely related still pictures that oftentimes feature links to adware- or malware-laden sites. Links are also distributed through the chat function of these sites.
Ustream Marketing Manager Shari Foldes told us in an email that her company is aware of the issue and is trying to address it through policy and product changes. She added: “As with any open web platform, events like the World Cup may lead to misuse, and we’re proactively working to devise solutions that protect copyright holders and the Ustream community.”
So what can end users do to avoid falling for these types of scammers? Keeping your browser, OS and anti-virus solutions up-to-date is one thing, following trusted news sources is another. The good thing is that this time around, there are plenty of legitimate viewing options out there. Both ESPN3 and Univision show the tournament online for free. For more options, including mobile applications, check our post Where to Watch the World Cup Online and on Your Phone.
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