As the clock ticks down to the UEFA Champions League final, recent data analysis has uncovered an alarming trend for UK football fans. The seemingly harmless search for free football streams has morphed into a perilous playground for cybercriminals, with your personal data and devices in the crosshairs.
The data doesn’t lie: a global surge of 45% in blocked attacks on hazardous websites during football matches has been recorded, and UK viewers have been hit with a 39% increase in attacks, according to data uncovered by digital security brand Avast.
The danger peaks at kickoff, turning what should be a thrilling moment into a potential cybersecurity nightmare.
However, there’s a silver lining for UK fans – there’s a way to watch the upcoming Champions League match for free, legally, and free from the fear of cyber threats (see more below).
The Lure Of Free Sports Streams
Football fans are renowned for their passion and dedication, with many willing to go to great lengths to watch their teams compete in Europe’s premier football tournament. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is being exploited by cybercriminals.
Many fans seek out free streaming options online – and those are often illegal (though sometimes viewers aren’t even aware of that).
Furthermore, these links are often buried deep within search results, with the most popular and legitimate sites appearing first.
Those who persist may find themselves on sites riddled with popups, malvertising, and phishing scams, all designed to gain access to personal data and infect devices.
The journey into this underworld of risky streaming typically begins with a seemingly innocent request to download video software in order to stream the match.
However, there is often a nasty surprise in store. The so-called software is, in fact, a malware package that will not lead to the eagerly anticipated footie match but instead opens the door to your device for hackers.
Even when fans do locate a free stream, they are often bombarded with layers of popups obscuring the match.
Clicking to remove these popups can result in further infection, the theft of user data, and even financial loss or identity theft.
Earlier this week, five individuals responsible for one of the world’s largest illegal sports streaming networks were sentenced to a collective 30 years and seven months in prison.
UK Fans: Beware the Kickoff
Avast’s data paints a worrying picture for football fans across Europe, but it also reveals specific patterns.
Notably, there are significant spikes in blocked URL attacks on match days compared to non-match days, with these surges coinciding with the time of kickoff.
Interestingly, the data shows some countries’ fans are riskier streamers than others.
Spanish viewers top the chart with a whopping 154% increase in attacks during matches. UK viewers, while not as reckless as their Spanish counterparts, still show a concerning 39% increase in attacks.
Keep Your Guard Up: Tips for Safe Viewing
As we approach the Champions League final, fans are reminded to prioritise their online safety. Avast offers three crucial tips for every football season:
Choose an authorised viewing method: Yes, this often means paying. The safest way to view content is via official sites. If paying to stream isn’t possible, consider joining fellow fans at local restaurants and pubs showing the game live.
Think before you click: A quick click can land you in hot water. If you start to see suspicious popups, slow down and avoid clicking on any links.
Use security software: If you’re venturing into uncharted territories of the internet, a robust security software can help guide you and block dangerous sites and popups before they can cause harm.
Watch UEFA Champions League For Free
There’s also some good news for football fans: BT Sport has announced that it will make the 2023 UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League finals available to everyone in the UK for free.
You can access the live coverage via several platforms, including the BT Sport App for mobile or TV, on the BT Sport website, on the BT Sport YouTube channel, and on Virgin Media.
Usually, viewers require a subscription to watch BT Sport, which typically costs £18 a month for 24 months, or £29.99/month on the Monthly Pass – however, for these European finals, the matches will be made freely accessible to all.
The UEFA Europa Conference League Final will air live from the Fortuna Arena in Prague from 6:30pm on Wednesday, June 7, on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate.
The UEFA Champions League final, featuring Manchester City v Inter, will take place on Saturday, June 10, live from the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.
BT Sport’s exclusively live coverage will begin at 6pm on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate.