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NFL fans gearing up for fantasy football — and so are hackers

PHOENIX — Fantasy football is one of the fastest growing industries — making it rife with fraud potential.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), almost $1.7 billion was spent on fantasy football in 2012, and in 2013, there were nearly 26 million fantasy football players in the United States.

“Anybody in the world can take part in fantasy football, (so) it makes users vulnerable to fraud,” explained Robert Siciliano, online security expert for McAfee. That fraud happens when they’re communicating with others that might send them links that could lead to an infected download. In some cases, they could receive an email with an attachment that could also lead to an infection.”

Siciliano added that when someone accesses your computer, it’s not just one person who has your personal information, it’s a whole network.

“In this day and age, criminal hackers are all involved in organized web mobs,” he said. “If the bad guy owns your email, he basically owns you. The word ‘sophisticated’ is thrown around a lot, and these hackers really are.”

He said everyone should always be proactive regarding information, not just those playing fantasy football.

“Be very careful about opening attachments or downloading files. Make sure you have antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall,” he advised. “If you have your device security up to par and with having critical security patches updated, in general, you should be in pretty good shape.”

And when it comes to passwords, make sure that they are long and strong.

“If your device is compromised, it allows a backdoor into your machine, which means while you’re in bed at 2 a.m. asleep, you could have a hacker from somewhere else in the world log onto your device via a remote access Trojan [virus],” explained Siciliano. “They could see all of the places you were throughout the day and all the websites you visited and get your user names and passwords, (including) banking and credit card accounts.”