Fans and businesses involved in the World Cup are at risk from a surge in cybercrime and online scams, an expert warns.

Henry Wilkinson, director of intelligence at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, warns there will be a surge in cybercriminality targeting individuals and businesses due to the number of people wishing to attend and travel there.

He says there is already evidence of an increase in efforts to scam people planning to attend the tournament, which begins in Qatar November 20.

It comes like Fifa said there were only about half a million tickets left of the three million that were to go on sale.

Meanwhile, the risk to businesses will likely come from cyber attackers trying to extort money from those involved in such a high-profile event.

Mr Wilkinson says: “In recent years there has been an increase in malicious online scams and phishing campaigns around international sporting events.

“Given the global popularity of the FIFA World Cup and the high demand for tickets and travel, cybercriminals will likely continue similar activities over the coming months.

“There has already been a spike of newly registered websites impersonating the 2022 FIFA World Cup page, which shows that phishing campaigns are already underway.

“We expect this to increase in the coming months…we expect phishing campaigns to revolve around selling tickets, travel and accommodation at ‘discounted’ prices… installation of fake World Cup related apps, malicious links offering promotional offers and illegal soccer streaming sites containing malware.”

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He says fans traveling to Qatar should be able to mitigate risk by not clicking on suspicious links and only downloading official event-related apps from trusted and familiar sites.

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FIFA said on Thursday that 2.45 million seats had been sold so far, with more than 500,000 seats still available.

The games in which Brazil Serbia and Cameroon were among the most in demand, he added.

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Fans struggle to find a place to stay

The greatest demand came from Qatar and neighboring countries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emiratesbut England fans were in the top ten list of those looking for tickets.

The cheapest tickets for fans from outside Qatar are priced at 250 riyals (currently £58). Fans need a confirmed ticket purchase in order to book accommodation in Qatar through an official tournament website.

Mr Wilkinson added: “For businesses, we expect online threats to be much more sophisticated, particularly for hospitality, aviation and technology companies given their importance to the logistical success of the event.

“These companies hold large amounts of customer data and will therefore be seen as financially lucrative targets by cybercriminal groups.

“These groups are increasingly using coercive methods to extract payments from companies. For example, cyber groups such as LockBit encrypt and disrupt access to victims’ systems, then threaten to post sensitive company information online. (so-called double extortion).

“Companies involved in Qatar World Cup logistics should be wary and prepare for cyberattacks in the coming months.”

FIFA said it received three million ticket applications for the World Cup final on December 18 at the 80,000 capacity Lusail Stadium.

Ticket sales have been suspended, with FIFA promising an update at the end of September on when the final set of tickets will be sold.

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