As always, Super Bowl LVII was among the biggest U.S. sporting events of the year, with a sold-out crowd of more than 70,000 fans and an estimated 113 million people watching across the country.
While it was a massive event with billions of dollars in economic activity, and a championship at stake, it was also a prominent target for cybercriminals, making Cisco the behind-the-scenes MVP of the Big Game. As more people, places, and things are connected via the internet, the more they need protection. So to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted game day, the NFL and its official cybersecurity partner Cisco, the global technology giant, built the best game plan to ensure the cybersecurity of all involved, from players to fans
Former NFL player Dante Hall spoke with Tomás Maldonado, the NFL’s Chief Information Security Officer, about what it took to defend Super Bowl LVII. “My team worked tirelessly to collaborate with everyone at the national, state, and local levels. We test and trial things for months leading up, and ultimately, we rely on our partner Cisco to ensure that we have the best playbook in the business,” Maldonado explained.
He went on to say it took “more preparation, building off of our success last year, tightening up our security protocols, and making sure that we had the best technology and talent [to pull it off].” But it’s not just about preparation.
Cisco Cybersecurity Distinguished Engineer Mike Storm described the company’s approach for the Super Bowl as being similar to a football coach’s approach to a big game. He said that Cisco uses the most up-to-date monitoring and threat data to ensure they know what the environment will look like leading up to and on game day.
“We walk into every project with a game plan. Many of the skills we bring are the same ones needed to play on the field,” Storm said. He compared Cisco’s maneuvers to those of a quarterback, constantly maximizing visibility and assessing threats close by and farther afield.
“When that blitzing linebacker comes through, it’s the running back’s responsibility to execute a block to protect the quarterback as he goes through his progressions,” Storm told Hall. “Cisco uses its security technology to give the NFL maximum visibility into its network and multiple layers of defense to ensure it can take the right action to complete the game plan and ultimately succeed. With the stakes being so high, we can’t afford to fail. So we won’t.”
And it paid off! According to Cisco, a massive amount of traffic was managed flawlessly across the network, with nearly 17,000 security intelligence events blocked and more than 400,000 connections blocked to and from blacklisted areas of the world.
“We received millions of queries, with thousands blocked or investigated, and every potential attack was denied,” Storm said.
The work doesn’t stop there. Maldonado says the NFL is becoming a global league, which means it will need to be more connected and protected than ever before. “There is no offseason. We’re already preparing and looking ahead to the Draft,” Maldonado said. “The fans are demanding to be even further engaged and be a part of the experience. This means there are more devices and more data requiring instant visibility.”
This is why when the game plan calls for the best protection, the NFL relies on Cisco.