March Madness Gone Wild and Cybersecurity Game Plan

March Madness is a very exciting month for not only college basketball fans, but anyone who takes interest in making brackets and bets. As challenging as it is to try and figure out who will win the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, people seem to go absolutely crazy about it. Shocking upsets make games all that more interesting while everyone’s eyes are glued to his/her fluctuating rankings. Prizes for the winners typically include millions of dollars for the school, trophies for the players and gambling winnings for some lucky “brackateer.”

Though placing bets can be fun and exciting, March Madness is also the perfect opportunity for hackers to steal personal information from unsuspecting gamers. No matter how good you are, you don’t stand a chance against a seasoned cybercriminal. Whether you’re filling out online brackets, purchasing tickets to the games, or streaming live videos – be sure to take into consideration the following cybersecurity precautions.

Online Brackets

Hackers have engineered several phony websites to fool eager participants, which is why it’s imperative to only use ones that are known to you. If you’re creating an online bracket, take a second to think about who’s asking for your information. Are you familiar with this site? If you’re in a group bracket, do you know the other members?

In addition, avoid providing personal or financial information when submitting your brackets. The best thing to do when making a bet that involves money is to give someone cash. It eliminates any possibility of having your credentials hijacked. This may not be feasible for everyone, especially those playing in large groups, so it’s important to look for sites using Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure (https). Strong cryptography prevents hackers from stealing your information during an online transaction. A lock icon in the bottom right corner of window using https indicates that your data will be encrypted.

Game Day Tickets

Going to any March Madness game is riveting. The emotions are high, and the excitement is real, but so are the threats you face when purchasing tickets. We advise buying tickets directly through the NCAA to ensure that 1) they’re real and 2) your card number isn’t stolen. Third party vendors often have nefarious agents waiting patiently to exploit anyone who falls into their trap. Victims are lured in by “unbeatable prices” that are too good to be true. Pro tip: They are. If it is too good to be true, it is…..  

if you must buy tickets online, be sure to use a credit card over a debit card because the banks typically offer more fraud protection on credit cards. As such, credit cards may limit the money that you have to pay in case there are fraudulent charges on the account. With debit cards, money is automatically deducted. Someone with access to your bank information can empty your entire account before you realize it.

Streaming Games

Can’t afford tickets or to take time off from work/school? You’re not the only one. Many people have resorted to streaming games online, if they don’t have access to cable or sports channels. Not a bad solution – unless the website you’re using isn’t licensed to carry the game. Streaming videos from such websites comes with the risk of malware.

Malware is malicious software intentionally designed to infect and damage computers, cell phones, and networks. It’s often hidden in codes and scripts that sometimes cause irreparable loss. So, you may not be aware of, or see the internal destruction taking place, but that live stream game may ultimately force you to buy a new computer. I bet that most people don’t want to win and find out they actually lost.  

Winning Cybersecurity Game Plan

By taking all these safety precautions into consideration, you’ve got yourself a winning March Cybersecurity Madness plan. Be smart and diligent. Who knows, there’s a lot of upsets during March Madness, so if you play wisely you may not be one of them. Go Terps.

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