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What Sports Agents Should Know | #cybercrime | #infosec


As pro prospects were called to the stage at the NFL Draft in Detroit last month, cybercriminals were hard at work. These athletes were about to sign multimillion-dollar contracts and endorsement deals, placing them among the high-wealth individuals targeted by digital thieves and hackers.

About 28% of high-net-worth families have experienced a cyberattack, according to Campden Research. In 2013, losses from frauds and scams perpetrated via the internet reached a potential $12.5 billion, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has found.

For an athlete, being drafted is one of the career inflection points at which they become more susceptible to cyber threats. Getting an athletic scholarship, landing that first NIL deal, winning a championship and signing a second pro contract also put them on criminals’ radar.

“These are the moments when threats spike,” said Leigh Dow, vice president of marketing at BlackCloak, a firm that specializes in Digital Executive Protection, including for athletes.

While extortion and fraud are primary cyber threats faced by athletes, the attacks are not always financially motivated. They are often out of pure maliciousness, carried out by scoundrels looking only to damage a celebrity’s reputation.

Athletes are Unique Targets of Cybercrime

Dr. Chris Pierson, BlackCloak’s CEO and founder, lists three types of cybercrime to which athletes are particularly vulnerable: data leakage of personal information, social media hacks, and impersonation. Athletes’ vast public profiles make them easy targets for criminals.

Data leakage puts victims at risk not only from a cybersecurity perspective, but also from a physical perspective, Pierson stresses.

If an athlete’s address is uncovered, for example, it’s not difficult to plan a home invasion. After all, schedules for games and tournaments, even for practice and training camp, are public information.

“There’ve been spates of robberies and burglaries and other crimes happening at their homes because (offenders) know that no one is home,” said Pierson.

An athlete’s public image is largely seen through the lens of their social media accounts, and whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, X or Snapchat, these accounts need to be protected from being taken over by a criminal who accesses their mark’s username and password.

“From there, they can read their private messages, share that private information with others, extort them, (appropriate) their pictures, and really intrude upon the private seclusion of their lives,” Pierson continued.

Impersonation of athletes is another trend noticed by BlackCloak, and one intensified by artificial intelligence and the allure of investment profits.

Under the guise of their athlete victims, a cybercriminal may send a mass email claiming, “I just made $100,000 off of only a $10,000 investment. You can, too.” Since athletes are known and trusted public figures, people tend to fall for such scams.

The spotlight on athletes arms criminals with more than they need to create deepfakes.

By many accounts, just 3 to 10 seconds of data are needed to train a model on a person’s voice or likeness — in essence, to create a video of someone that believably purports to be someone else. There is far beyond that amount of data readily available on a pro athlete.

“When you have folks who are captive — they’re in front of the camera, they’re in front of the microphone, talking over many years, from their college through their professional careers — this creates a treasure trove of video, still photos and voice that are super high quality to allow a model to learn more about them and create a fake image,” Pierson said.

Are Agents Tuned Into the Threat of Cybercrime?

Since protecting an athlete’s brand and bank account rank high on an agent’s list of priorities, agents must be wary of potential cybercrime against their clients. It’s an issue, though, some agents tend to overlook, according to Dow.

“I think agents and athletes spend a lot of time thinking about physical security,” Dow said. “They might have a driver or a bodyguard or a security team. What they don’t necessarily know to invest in is Digital Executive Protection, which often directly impacts your physical safety, too.”

An athlete’s wealth and reputation that an agent helps build can be unraveled quickly by a cyberattack.

“It’s an agent’s responsibility to protect and manage and grow their athletes, their client’s wealth,” said Pierson, whose company offers white-glove concierge service to its members.

“The way to protect the athlete is to make sure that they don’t lose their money because of a reputational issue, because they’re hacked, because their social media accounts are taken over, or because they’re a target of cybercrime and scams and fraud.”





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