Flag on the Play: Pull an Online Safety this Sunday with These Super Bowl-Size Tips

Sure there may be an on-field battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers in this Sunday's Super Bowl, but we all know the real action on Super Bowl Sunday happens on the screen. This year, more than ever, it's the computer screen more than the television screen, making football-crazed Internet users easy prey for hackers and advertisers alike. Put down that tortilla chip, move the pizza and beer aside and take a minute to read this to avoid a helmet full of headaches later on.

Sure there may be an on-field battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, but we all know the real action on Super Bowl Sunday happens on the screen. This year, more than ever, it’s the computer screen more than the television screen, making football-crazed Internet users easy prey for hackers and advertisers alike. Put down that tortilla chip, move the pizza and beer aside and take a minute to read this to avoid a helmet full of headaches later on.


Security experts are already predicting record-breaking numbers of online threats and cyber attacks related to Super Bowl Sunday as compared to other holidays and events, according to online security firm PC Tools. After all, it is the biggest and most-watched sports event of the year.

A 2010 survey from ComScore found two-thirds of respondents said they would search the Internet before and during the game to research players, teams and other game-day topics, while Twitter found that last year between 40 and 50 percent of all tweets during the height of the Super Bowl were related to the game.

As our sister site AllTwitter has reported, this year, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are capitalizing on that huge fan base by offering Super Bowl viewers more ways to join in on the game-day excitement online. Ad Age also predicts that advertisers will use social media at record levels to extend their ads past the 30-second spot you see in between plays.

With those kinds of numbers online, cybercriminals will undoubtedly target Super Bowl Sunday so all Internet users should be proactive against more aggressive threats, scams and malware activity.

“Whenever there is a major event, like Super Sunday, we see this kind of increased activity,” said Stephanie Edwards, Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing of PC Tools.

Edwards and the team at PC Tools specifically recommend looking out for the following Super Bowl-related scams:

  • Increased numbers of fake ads targeting young males will appear in popular forums and sites. These ads featuring attractive women or cheerleaders encourage people to click on the links, which take them to suspicious or malicious websites.
  • “Drive-by attacks” that occur when a link is inserted onto popular video sharing websites that promise users access to Super Bowl commercials. If a user clicks on the link, they may be redirected to unrelated ads or, in more extreme cases, users’ personal information may be taken unknowingly through malicious system exploits.
  • Hackers are also increasingly targeting legitimate fan and sports websites through redirected links or ads. A football fan scanning the latest sports updates may unknowingly have malware downloading through interactive animations on the page.

To avoid fumbling to those attacks, use these offensive tips to keep protect your computer and your online privacy this Super Bowl Sunday, and beyond:

  1. AVOID FUMBLING ON FILE-SHARE SITES: Be careful downloading Super Bowl commercials and videos that leave your computer vulnerable to viruses and malware.
  2. TACKLE CYBERCRIMINALS: Make sure you have installed the latest, updated version of security software on your home PC or Mac.
  3. INTERCEPT POP- UP ADS AND VIDEOS: If a virus alert, suspicious ad or unfamiliar video/animation appears on your computer screen, don’t click on it and immediately shut down the file. Also make sure to regularly run anti-virus software on your computer to keep it safe.
  4. WIN WITH A STRONG DEFENSIVE LINE: Make sure you have a firewall installed to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or an open network.
  5. SCORE A SECURE PASSWORD: An old, well-used password is easy to crack so change it often using this free password generator at http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/.