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Paris faces cyber battle to keep Games running and real

Published : Wednesday, 17 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 224

PARIS, APRIL 16: The Paris Olympics are bracing themselves to fight off an unprecedented level of cyber attacks, for the first time augmented by artificial intelligence.
The kaleidescope of threats could come from criminal groups, states eager to undermine the Games, "hacktivists" with ideological ambitions, gamblers or even athletes.
"There are so many moving pieces that the attack spectrum is quite large and its a very serious security challenge," John Hultquist, an analyst at Mandiant Consulting, a cybersecurity consultancy owned by Google, told AFP.
"We are worried about everything from the broadcasters to the sponsors, transport infrastructures, logistics and support, competitions.
"Any kind of disruption is on the table."
Japanese telecom company NTT, which provided IT security for the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics held in 2021, reported 450 million individual cyber attacks during the last edition of the Games, twice as many as during the 2012 London Olympics.
Fending off such attacks is primarily the responsibility of Frances information systems security agency (Anssi) and interior ministry, with backup from the cyber defence arm of the defence ministry (Comcyber).  Vincent Strubel, the director general of Anssi, told AFP in March that his attitude to the threat was "neither nonchalance, nor panic".
"Weve prepared hard. And we still have a few months to fine-tune," he added.
"The worst-case scenario is that we end up drowning in attacks that are not very serious, and that we don see a more dangerous attack coming, targeting a critical infrastructure," he added.
Cyber attacks are nothing new.
A risk management expert recalled in the research magazine Herodote the first cyber-attack on an Olympics, at Montreal in 1976, in the Stone Age of computing.
Those Games were hit by a 48-hour electrical disruption to information systems. Several events had to be postponed or moved.
International tensions multiply the risks. Russia, whose relations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are atrocious and whose athletes will not be able to compete under their national flag, has been suspected of several sports-related attacks already.
The IOC complained of Russian disinformation campaigns in November and March.
In 2019, Microsoft said that a Russian hacking group, Fancy Bears, had tried to attack the computer systems of several global anti-doping agencies.
Russian military intelligence services were blamed by the US for releasing the so-called "Olympic Destroyer" malware shortly before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea, from which Russian athletes were banned.
In early April, the Kremlin denounced President Emmanuel Macrons "unfounded" accusations that Moscow was disseminating information suggesting that Paris would not be ready for the Olympics.     —AFP

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