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Fake streaming sites were the biggest threat of the Tokyo Olympics

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / gonin)
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Although the FBI warned that cybercriminals would target the Olympic Games (opens in new tab) this summer, new research from Zscaler (opens in new tab) has revealed that fake streaming services (opens in new tab) were actually the biggest threat of the Tokyo Olympics.

Since the Rio Olympics back in 2016, streaming sporting events online has increased significantly and this was also the case during the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

During this year's games, Zscaler's ThreatLabz observed multiple instances of suspicious streaming services that weren't associated with any of the official Olympic streaming providers. Instead these websites claimed to provide free access to watch the games online before requesting payment credentials from customers.

After users registered for access to these illegitimate streaming sites, they were directed to a fake payment portal that was used to harvest their credit card numbers and other payment information.

Adware and the return of OlympicDestroyer

Zscaler also observed Olympic-themed adware (opens in new tab) activity during the Tokyo Olympics (opens in new tab) that claimed to offer free streaming services. However, users were instead redirected to unrelated sites for online gambling, auto trading and other topics.

According to a new blog post (opens in new tab) from Zscaler, it also saw cases where users were redirected to install adware in the form of browser extensions (opens in new tab) and fake software updaters. One example is the YourStreamSearch browser extension which is a known browser hijacker that recommends ads based on a user's search history.

The sophisticated malware OlympicDestroyer (opens in new tab), which first appeared online during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was also observed in the wild this summer as cybercriminals brought it back for the latest Olympic Games. At its core, OlympicDestoryer is a worm that spreads using Windows network shares and drops multiple files onto a victim's machine that try to steal their browser and system credentials.

To avoid falling victim to these and other scams related to online streaming, Zscaler recommends that users update their VPN (opens in new tab) services and devices, enable two-factor authentication (2FA (opens in new tab)), verify the source of emails, avoid unofficial app stores (opens in new tab) and backup their most important documents and media files.

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.