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Paris Olympics braces for cyber attacks

April 17th — Olympic organizers are bracing for a surge in cyber attacks during this year’s Summer Games, due to take place in Paris. Officials expect millions of hacking attempts, some of which are liable to target critical systems.

Cyber attacks could cause minor inconveniences (e.g., ticketing delays) or major reputational damage (e.g., empty stadiums). Nation-state backed attempts are of particular concern due to a past history, among some nations, of conducting cyber attacks against sporting events.

Preparations underway

Olympic organizers are preparing. They’re conducting simulations involving red teams and blue teams. They’re offering bug bounties to those who find vulnerabilities in systems. And, they’re providing staff with training surrounding phishing scams.

The cyber security team in command at the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo reported contending with 450 million attempted “security events.” This years’ organizers anticipate nearly eight to 12 times that number of events.

More information

In an interview, Vincent Strubel, the head of France’s cyber security agency, stated that the Olympics faced threats from adversarial countries, criminals ready to deploy ransomware, and Russian-aligned “hacktivists.”

He noted that the Olympics might be on-par with Black Friday everyday for two weeks, referring to  a high volume of phishing emails and other insidious hacker tactics. If a ransomware attack occurs, the pressure to pay will be intense.

Strubel is focused on preventing the most egregious types of attacks on the most critical infrastructure. He’s working with a large network of experts and training others to ensure that less serious incidents do not escalate and result in widespread harms.

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