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Defending Professional Sports Organizations Against Cyber Threats | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


Cybersecurity is a critical concern for all organizations, but for major professional sports organizations, the stakes are extraordinarily high. These organizations are not only responsible for the safety and privacy of their own data but also for the integrity of high-profile events that attract millions of viewers globally.

With the increasing sophistication of cyber threats, partnerships with leading technology companies become vital. Cisco has played a significant role in protecting the networks and data of some of the world’s most renowned sports organizations, including the NFL.

Cisco and McLaren Racing have announced an expanded global partnership that now incorporates Cisco’s security solutions. This extension provides the team with comprehensive network visibility, enhanced threat intelligence, and streamlined security management across all their network operations.

The Elevated Cyber Threat Landscape in Professional Sports

Professional sports organizations face a unique and elevated intensity of cyber threats. The combination of high-value data, widespread media coverage, and the involvement of various stakeholders makes these organizations prime targets for cyberattacks. Events such as the Super Bowl and Formula One races are particularly attractive to cybercriminals due to their global reach and the massive amount of data generated and transmitted during these events.

I spoke with Tomás Maldonado, the CISO of the NFL. He shared that the NFL is a constant target, and a lot of it is because of the brand. Football is the most watched sport in the United States, and the NFL has a lot of fans. He also noted that there is more of a global target on the NFL’s back as the organization continues to expand its presence with international games played in the United Kingdom and Germany with other nations being considered.

Cisco’s Role in Protecting McLaren Racing

McLaren Racing, a legendary name in Formula One, relies heavily on Cisco’s security solutions to protect its operations both on and off the track.

Daniel Keyworth, director of business technology at McLaren Racing, highlighted the importance of this partnership to me: “Cisco has been a trusted partner for us for many years. We formed an official relationship in 2022, but we were long-time customers of Cisco beforehand.”

He added, “We’ve delivered really intelligent networks to our HQ in Woking and the power technology center, but also to 24 Formula One races globally.”​.

McLaren leverages Cisco Secure Firewall and Cisco XDR (Extended Detection and Response) to monitor, detect, and respond to threats efficiently. The team’s reliance on AI-enhanced threat detection and automated response systems ensures they can focus on their primary goal: racing.

Keyworth noted, “We use Cisco Secure Firewall, which allows us to monitor the ingress and traffic into our McLaren perimeter. That allows us to detect any threats coming in and automatically respond.”

Securing High-Profile Events

The NFL’s relationship with Cisco has been pivotal in securing some of the most high-profile events in sports, including the Super Bowl. Cisco’s infrastructure is integral to the operations of many NFL stadiums, and their security tools are essential during major events. For the past several Super Bowls, Cisco’s technology has been instrumental in protecting the extensive network infrastructure required to broadcast and manage these events.

Maldonado shared insights into the scale of operations during the Super Bowl: “For the last Super Bowl, we had around 39,000 security intelligence events blocked by the Cisco Secure Firewall, powered by Cisco Talos, and 254,000 blocked connections to and from blacklisted areas.”

The NFL also benefits from Cisco’s advanced threat detection and response capabilities, which are crucial in an environment where threat actors are continually evolving their tactics. The league’s preparation for these events starts 12 to 18 months in advance, involving extensive assessments and the deployment of Cisco technology to ensure robust security measures are in place.

The Importance of Cybersecurity Partnerships

The partnerships between Cisco and organizations like McLaren Racing and the NFL demonstrate the critical role that cybersecurity plays in the success and safety of professional sports. Jeetu Patel, executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration at Cisco, emphasized that these partnerships are built on trust, innovation, and a shared commitment to protecting valuable data and ensuring the integrity of major sporting events.

Patel explained, “Our technology portfolio delivers across dynamic global environments, helps achieve meaningful results, and powerfully impacts McLaren Racing through our collaboration and partnership. We believe our breadth of security solutions will serve to accelerate the narrative and highlight why Cisco gives businesses the confidence and insight they need to operate securely.”

As cyber threats continue to evolve, the reliance on advanced security technologies and strategic partnerships will continue to grow. For professional sports organizations, ensuring the safety and integrity of their operations is paramount, and Cisco strives to provide the tools and expertise needed to defend against the ever-present cyber threat landscape.

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