Why NFL Teams Can’t Afford To Fumble Their Cyber-Security

And how the Broncos found a number of ways they could ensure their information would always be accessible and secure

In today’s professional sports environment, a team’s information and data can provide a key competitive advantage, both on the field and in their business operations. Technology plays a huge role in the NFL: the performance of individual players is monitored and tracked minutely to the delight of statistics-mad, fantasy-football fans and the sports league even hired its first CIO, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, in 2012.

As you would expect from eight-time AFC Championship winner and three-time Super Bowl Champions, the Denver Broncos a highly distributed and mobile IT environment, efficient data protection and management is paramount to their continued success. Given that the average worth of an NFL team is roughly $2bn, in a sport where success is literally measured and tracked in inches, you can imagine the sheer volume of sensitive data a team like the Broncos might generate. All 32 NFL teams rank among the top 50 most valuable sports teams in the world and as such must utilise enterprise-grade cybersecurity precautions to protect their digital valuables.

Data economy

Big name tech companies around the world have built entire business models on the data economy. The collection, continued analysis and safe storage of billions of data points has allowed businesses to predict consumer trends, anticipate developments in their industries and react faster to changes in their respective markets. Michael Lewis’ famous book, and subsequent film, Moneyball vividly showcases the impact that the analysis of data can have on sporting success. For the NFL big data affects everything from finding a hidden gem at the draft or informing a coach’s play call on a risky fourth-down. The same is as true of sports teams as it is of businesses, the less time and money you have to invest in rebuilding, maintaining and replacing IT equipment, the more resources you can allocate to excelling in your field.

cyber-securityAccording to security expert, Webroot, after reviewing their IT infrastructure before their 2013 season, the Broncos found a number of ways they could ensure their information would always be accessible and secure. As is the case for many enterprise-IT structures, their previous system was difficult to install, costly to run, inefficiently sapped resources and was complex to manage. Here, the similarity between sports teams and enterprises is even clearer. The NFL in particular has embraced technology whole-heartedly with innovations such as regulated in-helmet audio for Quarterbacks, instant in-stadium replays and mobile technology to run players through complex plays on the side-lines. These technologies have fundamentally changed the way the modern game is played, just as workplace innovations such as BYOD, mobile working and video conferencing have dramatically changed businesses over the past decades.

It is almost inevitable nowadays that any organisation with a substantial value, a store of private data or a brand to protect will be targeted by advanced, persistent threats in the shape of malware and zero-day attacks. Conventional antivirus solutions simply aren’t designed to counter the high rate of infections and breaches that have become the tools of modern cybercriminals. The Broncos, realising the integral importance of a seamless and reliable IT infrastructure, chose to upgrade their security system to one designed to meet the complex security requirements of the modern age. Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection, a cloud based security system is now used by the Broncos as it could ensure that every element of their IT infrastructure, no matter how small or mobile, was effectively secured by a robust cybersecurity database.

Take our data breaches of 2015 quiz here!