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Hackers are looking to steal and sell sensitive team records including strategy plans for forthcoming matches/playsReuters

Some major sporting events and tournaments are scheduled to take place this year making these events and sensitive data related to the teams participating vulnerable to hacking, according to cyber security researchers. The recent dependency of sport teams, organisations and tournament hosts on mobile, cloud and analytics, make them easy targets for hackers.

According to researchers a large sporting event like the Euro 2016 or the Rio Olympics provides potential hackers the opportunity to target various layers of information. This includes personal information of players, staff and fans to digital payment information of customers buying tickets for these events.

Shedding more light on this, Stephen Gates, chief research intelligence analyst at NSFOCUS told IBTimes UK, "In cases like these, sports teams, organisations, and tournaments are threatened by the same cyber-attacks everyone else faces. It's all about hacker motivations and those unfortunately can be just about anything. From notoriety, financial gain, competitive advantage, protest, you name it, the motivations are extremely broad. Most hackers are financially motivated though. Stealing someone's identity by way of stealing their health, training, and/or financial records seems obvious to those aware of cyber threats."

He also reflects on team record leaks that may allow gamblers and hackers to use information like team strategies and game plans to their advantage. "If a hacker has access to team records that show someone is injured but not revealed publicly or someone wouldn't be playing and more such inside information, it could be used to increase sports betting odds. Remember, betting/gambling on sporting events is a huge business," Gates said.

Sensitive team records and event plans also have a high value in the fantasy sports gaming industry as well as for opponents and rival event organisers who want to get a leg-up on their rival with such info. It is thus extremely important that organisers as well as sport team managements realise this and employ better security measures in place, say the experts.

"The importance of protecting data associated with sports events, whether it's professional or amateur athletics, school teams or something as large as the Olympics is no different than protecting enterprise or customer data. It's prudent for organisations of all kinds to follow best practices of encrypting all sensitive personal data as it enters a system," Mark Bower, global director at HPE Security told IBTimes UK.

Such incidents have already taken place in the recent past. During the 2015 Tour de France, the general manager of Team Sky alleged that unknown hackers had accessed reigning Tour champion Chris Froome's performance data to discredit him. Researchers warn these kinds of attacks are just a beginning and could escalate if precaution is not taken.