2012 Olympics Threatened by Hackers: UK Official

Dennis Faas's picture

A British government official has said the online networks set to carry this summer's Olympic Games could be targeted for online attacks by cybercriminals.

No specific threats have been identified, but officials are nevertheless employing professional hackers to test the networks' security and readiness to resist various methods of attack.

Francis Maude, the UK's Cabinet Office minister, is charged with supporting the workings of the government across all departments.

He made specific comments about the possibility of such attacks while visiting Estonia, the eastern European state that has often dealt with attacks from cybercriminals.

According to Maude, in 2008 there were 12 million cyber-security "incidents" aimed at the Beijing summer Olympics. The problem, he said, could be worse this time around because of security leaks that have already been discovered.

"High-end cybersecurity solutions that were used 18 months ago by a limited number of organizations to protect their networks may already be out in the open marketplace, giving cybercriminals the knowledge to get round these protective measures," Maude said. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Defensive Tactics Must Constantly Change

Because of the danger, Maude argues that officials need to keep alert and to constantly change the techniques they use to defend against cybercriminal's attacks.

Officials have already revealed that their defensive strategies could include making sure the most sensitive data is kept on an internal network that is not accessible via the wider Internet.

Another approach might be to split the Olympics' data across multiple websites. This would make it harder for hackers to be effective with their usual "denial of service" attacks that can easily knock single sites offline.

So far, no specific threats have yet been identified, or at least publicly acknowledged.

However, Olympic officials have been preparing for attacks on their computer systems, such as those used to record athletic event results, and those used to provide data to journalists.

Reportedly, Olympics officials have hired at least 100 people to play the role of hackers during simulated attacks.

Internet Regulation Versus 'Hands Off' Approach

At the same time that he insisted on the importance of preparation for a cyber attack, Maude said that governments should maintain a hands-off role regarding the Internet:

"Governments need to resist the temptation to over regulate and control. The Internet after all has flourished because it has been shaped by its users, not by governments," Maude said. (Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Such comments clash with positions taken by some of Maude's colleagues in the UK's Conservative party.

For example, several officials have previously called for new government rules that would block adult websites unless individual users specifically asked their Internet providers for access.

Maude's proclamations came in the same week that a British court forced most major Internet providers to block access to The Pirate Bay website, which helps users find files that download via 'torrent' technology.

Many, but not all, of these files infringe on copyrights.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet