Olympics on guard against cyber risks

Olympics on guard against cyber risks

TOKYO • Organisers said they were on constant alert for cyber attacks yesterday but had yet to suffer “significant impact” after Britain accused Russia of targeting the Tokyo Olympics.

Britain’s foreign ministry said Russian spies attacked the 2020 Games’ organisers, logistics services and sponsors before the event was postponed by one year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 officials said they had taken a range of countermeasures against digital attacks but did not disclose details, citing security concerns.

“While we have constantly monitored various types of cyber attack on the digital platforms owned by Tokyo 2020, no significant impact has been observed in our operations,” an organising committee statement said.

Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto declined to directly address the report yesterday.

But the former speed skater and track cyclist said that “since the London Games, cyber attacks have been increasing”.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato also told a news conference that Japan was in close contact with the United States and United Kingdom over the issue and was gathering and analysing information, but did not give further details.

British daily The Guardian said alleged digital reconnaissance work on Tokyo 2020 had included spear phishing – messages disguised to appear as if from a trusted friend or business connection, but which contain malware.

The planned attack also included setting up fake websites and researching individuals’ account security, the newspaper said.

Britain’s allegations came as six Russian military intelligence officers were charged in America with carrying out cyber attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, the 2017 French elections and the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The US Justice Department said the Pyeongchang Games were targeted after Russian athletes were banned from participating under their own flag because of government-sponsored doping efforts.

“Their cyber attack combined the emotional maturity of a petulant child with the resources of a nation state,” Assistant Attorney-General John Demers said, adding that they attempted to pin it on North Korea.

“During the opening ceremony, they launched the ‘Olympic Destroyer’ malware attack, which deleted data from thousands of computers supporting the Games, rendering them inoperable.”

Lee Hee-beom, former president and chief executive officer of the Pyeongchang organising committee, said he was unaware who was responsible for the attack until now.

“There was a hacking on the opening day but we could not confirm its source,” he said of the incident that occurred two years ago.

“Internet connection was lost right after the ceremony from the hacking and we had to mobilise experts to restore it all night.

“Until now, I did not know who had done it.”

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman said it has placed emphasis on cyber security.

“The IOC and the organising committees of the Olympic Games have identified cyber security as a priority area and invest a lot to offer the Olympic Games the best cyber security environment possible,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.

“Given the nature of the topic, we do not divulge those measures.”