Defense wins championships. And the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is hoping that it will also provide members and their families the best approach for meeting rising threats to their cyber security.
Wide-scale corporate hacking began around 2000. Hacks on personalities took off with wider use of smartphones and a fast-growing list of social media services, sites and apps soared. The line between NFL players (and other athletes) and celebrities quickly blurred and helped fuel hacking forward.
Some groups have regularly hacked Fortune 500 companies from within the outside and remotely from abroad. Military facilities, utilities, government agencies, retailers and more have already been hacked, and precious data compromised - and services often interrupted.
Questionable use of social media has also posed a problem for individuals.
Turning to "Athlete-Celebs"
Hackers have turned some of their attention toward celebrities from all industries - with increased emphasis on professional sports athletes. Raised in the online generation, they too may need help with how they use the growing list of sites, services and apps with a growing list of devices.
Social media is the epitome of a double-edged sword for the NFL. On the one hand the league has partnered with Twitter, Amazon, Snapchat, Google and Facebook to greatly expand its brand with content. On the other hand, those in seemingly all corners of the NFL - and other sports - still struggle to use the sites wisely and/or safely.
That task is getting far tougher as the list of social media sites and services has lengthened in recent years. We're clearly well beyond Twitter with the options continuing to grow.
The NFLPA and K2
That led to the NFLPA and K2 Intelligence - long-time partners deciding last week - to formalize the arrangement in order to provide players and their families with a list of online and social media protections and capabilities for items they may or may not have thought of - let alone how to respond to safety threats, says the NFLPA.
K2 will provide a free comprehensive initial consultation on the issue then a 10% discount on professional fees if/once engaged, according to a NFLPA spokesman.
Back to School?
The NFL has tried at symposiums to educate soon-to-be players on the dangers of social media, with the actual image of former player and coach Herm Edwards imploring an audience to think before they hit send with a tweet coming to mind.
The goal is to spare all parties the pain of mistakes in usage, which is noble and important but perhaps somewhat futile with college-age athletes who have been heavily using social media since they were old enough to operate a mobile device.
Nonetheless, education on cyber security would likely have a greater impact since it seems numerous categories of unauthorized users would love access to player's phones, websites, and personal data. Once that has occurred, people and companies need far, far more help with the impact and damage than a hijacked Twitter account.
With the inescapable threat of hacking increasing, the phrase "safety help" mean much more than another body in the secondary to help a cornerback cover an imposing wide receiver.
That led to the NFLPA and K2 Intelligence teaming to provide players and their families with a list of online and social media protections and capabilities for items they may or may not have thought of - let alone how to respond to safety threats, says the NFLPA.
K2 has long offered "after the attack" services - the demand for which has increased for companies and players regardless of their security skill level.
It's more than damage control and more about containment and investigations. Mitigation and investigation services from K2 are designed to contain situations, but more valuably to get to the bottom of them to try to ensure they won't happen again.
Heavy Hitters for Heavy Hitters
K2 Intelligence Social Media Intelligence, Monitoring and Risk Mitigation help to (according to the company):
- Provide confidential and immediate incident response services if a problem occurs in order to quickly identify the issue and resolve or mitigate the problem;
- Monitor accounts and personal devices to inform members what they do not know about their online data and if others have accessed their accounts; and
- Educate NFLPA members about what they should know about their online activities.
K2 claims its expertise centers on cyber investigations and defense, anti-money laundering and regulatory compliance, complex investigations and disputes, data analytics and visualization, and integrity monitoring and compliance. Founded in 2009, and based in New York, the company has about 300 employees as well as offices in London, Madrid and Tel Aviv. They say they are an advisor to governments, companies, boards, and individuals.
The players' association reports that the new intelligence and cybersecurity solutions are designed specifically with NFL players, past and present, in mind to create awareness and understanding of their online and social media "footprint." This entails "helping players manage their social media risks and related cyber issues
and aggressively respond to potential problems."
NFLPA members or their families can learn more about these services by visiting K2 Intelligence. It's where NFL Player Rep Mark Herzlich discusses the cybersecurity and safety challenges in a video describing the importance of these services can also be found there.
Online Security-Business Is Booming
Just as many realized that the biggest tech oxymoron is "secure web site" at the turn of the century when corporate online destination were hacked and disabled for fun or for a cause. "Safe social media" can't be far behind, especially for individuals such as sports personalities that are in the public spotlight whether they like it or not.
Unlike average Joes and Janes, the line is blurring fast between sports and entertainment (see TMZ) figures which elevate them immensely as targets for a fast-growing list of threats, not to mention a "media paparazzi."
And that continues to send the business skyward. Aware of what K2 offers, AIG recently bought an equity stake in K2 Intelligence, likely to fill out its own safety and security services. AIG didn't divulge the size of its investment in K2.
The Bottom Line
You could make the case that cybersecurity and social media safety start at home, which may have held up before the millennium. Nowadays it seems more of the focus is on action after the hack, with user education not as powerful a weapon against hackers.
Bob Wallace is a technology journalist with over 30 years of experience explaining how new services, apps, consumer electronic devices and video sources are reshaping the world of communications as we know it. Wallace has specific expertise in explaining how and why advances in technology redefine the way sports fans interact with their league, teams, players and each other. He's the Founder of Fast Forward Thinking LLC.