Olympic Games computer systems prepare for cyber attacks

Scenarios to be run include a massive denial of service attack on the official website, and a virus getting onto organisers’ computers. Despite the extensive planning, Olympic bosses say they are unaware of any specific threat. Nevertheless, one of the biggest fears around the Olympics is not a crashed server or power outage, but a deliberate attack by cyber criminals. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China was subject to about 12 million online attacks per day.

Gerry Pennell, Chief Information officer for London 2012 believes the UK has learned lessons from its predecessor. “The approach of the website is a distributed one. That minimises the DDoS attack route. Another key principle is to keep mission-critical games systems quite isolated from anything web-facing. So very much partitioned and separated, thus making it hard for an external attack to succeed.”

Security testing on the system will be carried out in a specially isolated version of the Olympic network, using an in-house team of pretend hackers. Atos, the company managing the games’ IT systems is constantly looking for information on potential threats to the Olympic Games. Since the last Olympic Games, the nature and scope of cyber threats has changed substantially. A series of hacks and website takedowns – orchestrated by Anonymous and LulzSec – has hit organisations including Sony, HB Gary, and the UK and US governments. More complex attacks, such as the Stuxnet worm, which targeted Iran’s nuclear industry, highlighted the sophistication of politically motivated hackers.

In April, former Home Secretary David Blunkett warned that the Olympics could be hit by “devastating” cyber attacks if more was not done to boost the country’s IT defences. Since becoming prime minister, David Cameron has repeatedly stressed his commitment to protecting the country from cyber attacks. The UK is due to host a global summit to discuss the problem, beginning 1 November.

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