I think the whole world is captivated by the activities of the sporting superstars performing in Tokyo at the moment. Even those of us who are mainly armchair sports fans had a tear and a moment of joy watching Tom Daley on Monday. But did you know that cyber crime within elite sport is rife? Not obvious bedfellows? Read on…
I first came across the concept of sport being vulnerable to the cyber criminal when talking to our friends and colleagues at the Scottish Sports Association. Kim, Gregor and team have been really proactive in sharing cyber messaging within the sporting community over the last couple of years. They are part of the third sector Cyber Catalyst Network, have a brilliant steering group made up of representatives from the many Scottish Governing Bodies of sport and have also worked tirelessly to share cyber messaging with grassroots sports clubs and their wider communities.
One of my first conversations with the SSA team has always stuck with me. I was obviously aware that many sports clubs and their governing bodies were vulnerable as they collect a reasonable amount of personal information. This, in particular the information pertaining to children and young people, really does need to be protected by robust security protocols.
That said, it was the concept of “Sports Espionage” that blew my mind! The SSA team explained that access to the training records, performance data and diet plans of elite athletes was hot currency to competing teams and that cyber sports espionage (hacking to gain information) was a real issue at the top level of sport.
Considering this further, it made perfect sense – if you know the training regime and breakfast requirements of your foes, you have information that can be used to give you a real competitive advantage on the pitch, pool, track (delete as applicable) and, at that level, I guess every little advantage helps!
There is no real call to action with this blog – The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) do have information for sports clubs about how to become more cyber secure, which is very useful. I think my real reflections are that nothing and no one is immune to the acts of cyber criminals. And, when you sit down to watch our 376 professional athletes compete in this thrilling spectacle of sport… do remember that their diet plans REALLY ARE closely guarded secrets!