Cyber fight! Premier League clubs turn to ex-Government intelligence agent to combat online criminals after report reveals one club was nearly robbed of £1m

A number of leading Premier League clubs have turned to a company run by a former Government intelligence agent in a bid to tackle cyber criminals.

Sportsmail understands that the services of a firm – created by a former GCHQ operative – have been enlisted to stave off attacks on clubs’ networks which could cost millions, destroy reputations and see stadiums crippled on matchdays.

On Thursday, a report released by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) concluded that sports organisations are twice as likely as other UK businesses to be targeted by hackers.

Premier League clubs turn to ex-Government intelligence agent

Premier League clubs have turned to a former Government agent to combat online criminals

It listed a series of alarming instances, including one in which a Premier League club came close to losing £1million to criminals who hacked into the email account of a managing director during a player transfer negotiation. The report said the transfer negotiation involved an overseas club and that only a late intervention from the bank prevented the £1m loss.

The report also disclosed that an EFL club was almost forced to cancel a match after a cyber attack disabled their turnstile system.

The ongoing threat of attack has forced some of the country’s top clubs to take considerable action.

They have drafted in an external consultancy company, which is led by a former GCHQ expert, to review their security measures and ensure that they have robust procedures in place. 

Premier League clubs turn to ex-Government intelligence agent

A ransomware attack blocked a Football League club’s turnstiles and almost postponed a game

Sources have disclosed that there are a number of ways a cyber attack could cause huge damage. Clubs have fears over the financial implications of someone unlawfully entering their network and obtaining confidential data.

There are also fears that hackers could pounce on social media feeds and trigger embarrassment by sending out messages not aligned with the club’s beliefs.

Given that so much of what happens is done digitally, hackers could cause enough disruption to see games postponed.

The situation Manchester City faced, when a hacker leaked a series of emails from within the club, is also viewed as an issue, while the release of private financial information could jeopardise future commercial deals.

The NCSC, which is part of GCHQ, said that ‘at least 70 per cent’ of sports organisations suffered a cyber incident every year. It urged the sports sector to tighten its cyber security amid the likelihood of further attacks.

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