Tips & Advice

March Madness! Criminals siphon millions from unsuspecting gamblers

Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security

Ah, spring! The birds are singing, our gardens are starting to wake up, and the air is alive with the feel of people scrambling to fill out their brackets for the annual NCAA basketball championship.

"March Madness" is one of the most popular betting events on the Internet every year, generating a large part of the estimated $9 BILLION in gambling revenues around the world. This environment gives cyber criminals the opportunity to siphon millions from unsuspecting gamblers who are easily lured to place bets on their spoofed websites. Those bets are never placed, of course, and the victims often have no recourse to reclaim their money.

Online gambling has exploded in popularity over the last decade, as technology has gotten faster and cheaper, and criminals have become more sophisticated with their spoofed websites. There are legitimate gambling websites, of course, but a lot of people engaging in online betting want to keep a low profile, which is music to the bad guys' ears. A victim who won't report the crime is the perfect target.

If online gambling is your hobby, you should consider the risks and learn how to be safe while doing it. Cybercriminals put a lot of effort into making their websites look shiny and inviting, but their only business objective is to steal your credit card information. In many cases, these websites are hosted "offshore," in countries outside the USA, which makes it nearly impossible to recover monetary losses from this theft.

If you want to safely enjoy your March Madness games and maybe make a little profit from them, you need to do some research beforehand. Do a web search to validate betting sites using terms like "safe online betting" or "March Madness online risk"; there are a number of cyber security vendors who have already investigated this issue and published their findings to show where it's safe to bet, and what sites may have some concerns.

You can also research into websites you find on your own. Search for "website lookup" to find sites that will show you where in the world (literally) a specific website is hosted, who owns it, and often what its risk level is. You don't need to be tech-savvy to find this information, and it could save you a lot of grief and money before placing that bet if you stick to sites in the U.S. with good reputations.

Whether it's March Madness, the World Series, or any other major sporting event, you can bet on your favorite team or player all you like, but you have to do it safely and responsibly. That way, you win all around.

One last bit of advice... Please do not participate in this type of activity while you're at work, especially on your company's network. If you happen to land on a spoofed, malicious betting website, you could easily infect the entire company network, and trust me, that will REALLY ruin your day!