With cybercrime in the industry on the up, IT security provider, Melanie Oldham OBE, outlines the latest threats event professionals should look out for.
The events industry might not appear to be an obvious target for cybercrime at first glance, but the vast amount of information which passes between events organisations and delegates makes the sector an appealing target for cybercriminals.
One of the largest event cyber-attacks ever recorded was the 2017 Coachella Valley Music Festival, where information on 950,000 delegates was stolen from the event marketer’s database and sold onto the dark web. This incident was the result of one of the most common attacks employed by cybercriminals: compromising an event employee’s password to access the entire network.
“The high number of delegates and the amount of devices used makes the risk for malware infiltrated devices far greater.”
Compromised passwords are still commonplace today. The number of passwords event professionals must remember makes them either reuse a single password across several accounts or use information from their personal lives which is often visible online via social media. A simple solution to this problem is to use memorable passwords which are not associated with any personal information. But utilising multi-factor authentication is an even stronger mode of defence, where a second randomly generated code sent to a separate device is required to log into an account, making that account inaccessible without the second code even if the password is compromised.
The first-time communication with a third-party supplier can also open a wave of potential opportunity for cybercriminals. Conversation hijacking has risen by 270% last year alone, whereby intercepting emails and changing key information, hackers can cause all kinds of damage including redirecting money into their own bank accounts when payments are being made.
The returned high number of delegates passing through event spaces and the amount of devices used within one venue makes the risk for data collection or malware-infiltrated devices far greater. Newer threats which break away from conventional cyber-attacks, including phishing or ransomware, are also perfectly suited to infiltrating event spaces.
One such method is the spreading of viruses through the likes of BlueBorne Malware, which is self-replicating and can spread to any other Bluetooth-enabled devices within range. Another attack vector on the rise pertains specifically to a flaw in the Airdrop function in Apple devices which allows the user to share files via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It has been discovered that the Apple encryption designed to protect an account’s information during sharing can actually be decrypted with surprising ease.
As events venues have gone paperless with food menus and ticketing, QR codes can now be manipulated to direct delegates to malicious websites. Known as Qishing, the attack has risen in popularity to become commonplace specifically in bar and restaurant areas, where attackers can quickly replace existing QR codes with fake ones.
The events industry holds a unique issue when it comes to cybersecurity: not only must it protect daily operations and permanent employees, but also manage physical security during events. The potential for unregistered delegates to enter without proper validation or for badges to be left unattended plus the number of temporary event staff creates an issue.
Most probably don’t know each other well and may not fully understand all event procedures, meaning anybody wearing a hi-vis jacket with the right excuse could gain access to restricted areas. Stressing the importance of event procedures in place is vital for planners.
The nature of the event industry makes it more susceptible than most. As event technology continues to grow, it is more important than ever that venue holders, planners, and suppliers are aware and dealing with the threat landscape we are still facing.