Cybersecurity

Potential Super Bowl cybersecurity threats have agencies on high alert

Federal agency document reviewed by local outlet finds no credible threat—but caution is still needed.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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It’s all about how you call the cybersecurity plays.

Super Bowl Sunday is the nation’s biggest televised and streaming sporting event, and like anything that draws people, it’s a cybersecurity risk.

With more than 100 million viewers and an expected in-person audience in Las Vegas of 65,000, Super Bowl LVIII is a plum target for cybercriminals.

“The safety of our fans, players, and club and venue personnel at all NFL events is our top priority,” Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesperson, told Sportico.

Run the ball. In January, more than 135,000 attendees descended on Vegas for tech trade show CES. As IT Brew previously reported, organizers worked with state and local governments, as well as resort properties, to ensure security.

“There is a community of IT professionals—CIOs, CTOs—who work for the properties; they share and exchange information on a pretty frequent basis,” CES VP and Show Director John Kelley told IT Brew. “If, for instance, something’s happening over at property X, then they share it with their counterparts over at property Y to say, ‘Hey, look, we’ve noticed some weird traffic on the network or this is happening here; make sure your house is in order.’”

Governmental organizations share an overall strategy to manage the nation’s biggest televised event. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has assigned previous Super Bowls as Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) Level 1, a designation that calls for “extensive federal support.”

So far there’s been no credible threat to the Super Bowl, according to a confidential threat assessment from the FBI, DHS, and the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, local ABC affiliate KTNV reported.

Defensive line. Still, vigilance pays. That’s why CISA’s been keeping an eye out for potential Super Bowl threats. Back in September, the agency workshopped its 10th annual exercise with “more than 100 partners from the NFL, stadium, and federal, state, and local governments” to play out how an attack would affect the championship.

“This was a safe, low-stress setting to identify any gaps in those plans and ensure we all have a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities,” CISA Deputy Executive Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security, Steve Harris, said in a statement. “In short, this exercise will help ensure we’re ready for any challenges that come our way on game day.”

For four hours, agency officials and Super Bowl stakeholders gamed out various responses to threats, including phishing and ransomware attacks, a data breach, and an internal threat. It was the “first of many simulations we will conduct prior to Super Bowl LVIII,” NFL SVP and Chief Security Officer Cathy Lanier said.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.