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Cybersecurity firm to pull double-duty at Super Bowl

Brian Hartz

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Raymond James Stadium will host Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Barnard Gagnon.

With its client the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to become the first NFL team in history to play in a Super Bowl at their home stadium, Tampa tech firm ReliaQuest’s role at the big game just got tougher.

ReliaQuest was recently named the official cybersecurity partner of the Super Bowl LV Host Committee. The designation marks the first time the Super Bowl has formed such a partnership, which speaks to the growing importance of securing the networks and systems that handle everything from ticket and merchandise sales to the information displayed on stadium scoreboards. 

“We are the official cybersecurity partner for the Bucs,” ReliaQuest Chief Technology Officer Joe Partlow said. “And since they are in [the Super Bowl], that levels up that relationship a bit, as well. I’m glad they’re there, but it’ll make things a little bit more challenging. Since we are the cybersecurity partner for the Bucs already, if they weren’t in it, that would be a lot different than them being in it. So, since they’re in it, we’re obviously monitoring what would be the normal Bucs security posture, but if they weren’t in it, then it would be more about the venue and vendor experience.” 

ReliaQuest Chief Technology Officer Joe Partlow. Photo courtesy of ReliaQuest.

ReliaQuest, Partlow said, is also the official cybersecurity partner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He believes the firm’s existing sports industry experience and deep ties to the community gave it an edge in talks with the host committee about cybersecurity needs of the NFL and its partners and vendors. 

“We have provided coverage for vendors at the Super Bowl in the past, as well as for big national conferences,” Partlow said. “But since this is the first time in history you have a team playing in the Super Bowl in their home city, we are anticipating a lot more people and activity around Tampa — hopefully all for the good.” 

With Covid-19 precautions leading the NFL to cap Super Bowl attendance at 22,000 people, the job of onsite law enforcement and security personnel might be easier, but stadium capacity reduction “pushes that much more coverage into the cyber arena,” Partlow said. “People who can’t go to the game, they’re looking up more information, they’re watching it on the Internet, so there’s a much more expanded footprint, if you will, for people to fall victim to phishing … that might be an avenue of attack.” 

App and website monitoring is another key task for ReliaQuest as it works to protect the Super Bowl from would-be cyber-attackers. The company will keep close tabs on affiliated websites and social media accounts to head off hackers, and it will work to protect the “connected systems that bring a lot of high-tech features into the game,” Partlow said. The ReliaQuest team will also scour social media posts, in general, for any signs of potential threats to the event, both physical and online. 

Protecting the personal information of the small army of volunteers who make the Super Bowl possible is also a priority for ReliaQuest, Partlow said, as is ensuring the security of credit card transactions online and at the stadium, as well as safeguarding teams’ sensitive information about their players. “From an information standpoint,” he said, “there’s a lot of high-value targets.”

Super Bowl LV takes place Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Tom Brady and the Bucs will face reigning Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs, led by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. 

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