India’s star cricketers: cyberlures

On Sunday evening, the Mumbai Indians beat the Chennai Super Kings by a 23-run margin to win the sixth Indian Premier League cricket tournament. But the championship has ended not with pomp and glory but snared in a web of scandal, as the Delhi and Mumbai police investigate players and bookmakers for alleged spot-fixing.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it now seems India’s biggest cricketing tournament is creating trouble far from the field too, with star players’ names being used as bait in cybercrime.

McAfee, a maker of internet security software, has published a list of India’s most dangerous cricketers in cyberspace. It used McAfee’s Site Advisor software, which tests and rates the riskiness of websites, to identify celebrity cricketers whose names are being used by fraudsters to lure innocent browsers onto malicious websites in order to extract passwords and personal details.

McAfee’s report says:

Fans looking for results on search engines using strings such as ‘name of cricketer’ combined with words like ‘free downloads’, ‘hot pictures’, ‘wallpapers’, and ‘videos’ are at risk of running themselves into malicious sites.

So perhaps it’s a compliment – a reflection of popularity – to be high on the cybercrime list?

Topping McAfee’s table as the most dangerous IPL player in cyberspace is Chris Gayle (pictured above), with 32 infected search results found using his name. What makes him a popular target? Is it the fact that he totted up the highest individual score of 175 runs in this tournament? Or could fans be more attracted by his famous Gangnam style celebrations?

Sharing the podium are Brett Lee and S Sreesanth (among those under investigation for alleged spot-fixing), with 31 and 30 infected search results respectively.

Sreesanth’s high ranking suggests a player’s value as bait may not depend solely on fast bowling skills but may be augmented by intrigue, be it over alleged spot-fixing or the latest developments in the great slapgate scandal.

This from Venkatasubrahmanyam Krishnapur, vice-president of engineering at McAfee India Centre:

Cyber criminals constantly leverage famous personalities and very cleverly time their attacks to coincide with popular events in luring people to websites with malicious software…

In the context of the ongoing cricketing leagues, cyber crooks are leveraging famous cricketers for their nefarious gains. During such events, eager cricket crazy fans are highly motivated to search for photos, videos, score and stories of their favorite cricketers online and in that moment of weakness they are lured into clicking malicious links that puts them at considerable risk.

It all adds to the wider web of crime and scandal that has wound itself around the IPL in recent days, with bookmakers and players from the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Superkings teams barred from the tournament under investigation for alleged spot-fixing.

Shekhar Kapur, the film director, commented of Twitter:

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While another Twitter user quipped:

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As well as being bad for the spirit of sportsmanship, such scandals are costly in terms of marketing. Brand Finance, a consultancy, perhaps spoke too soon when it estimated that the value of the IPL brand had grown this year thanks to marketing efforts by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and an end of the glitzy parties and match-fixing that distracted from the cricket during previous tournaments.

Then again, the fact that the IPL’s top players are so sought after as bait for cybercrime suggests they have enjoyed some increase in brand value after all.

Related reading:
India’s cricket chief hits back at corruption claims, FT
IPL cricket jamboree threatened by scandal and crime claims, FT
Yet another scandal hits India’s IPL, beyondbrics
India’s cricket league gets its brand value back, beyondbrics