Cyber Attacks Won't Keep Olympians from Chasing Gold in London

By Steve Anderson July 06, 2012

While the computer systems associated with key systems going into the 2012 Olympic Games in London have already been attacked several times, the prevailing mood among those responsible for computer security is upbeat, and has already led to recent word that cyber attacks shouldn't get in the way in the chase for gold throughout the 2012 games.

The primary reason for the optimism is that all of the attacks that have been brought to bear so far on Olympics-related computer systems have been staged, and are the result of over 200,000 of simulated attacks and associated testing. Atos, the primary source of technology for the Olympics, both Summer Games and Winter Games alike, since 2002, is immediately responsible for close to 11,500 computers scattered around the whole of Great Britain, according to reports. This kind of a widely-dispersed network of computers and servers alike is something of a risky proposition, especially considering said network is geared toward providing not only Olympic venue scoreboards, but also event timetables for athletes and accreditation information to the various border officials. Tampering at any one of those levels could raise immeasurable havoc with the Games themselves, and thus, Atos has launched a series of punishing tests designed to find as many gaps as possible, and fix them in advance of the event.

Drawing on the skills of what are called "ethical hackers", sometimes known as "white-hat hackers", the purpose is to attempt to break into a system to find its deficiencies before the system is put into wider use, where less ethical hackers--also sometimes referred to as "gray-hat" or even "black-hat" hackers based on old cowboy movie conventions--will attempt those same break-ins but for more nefarious purposes.

The demand for such services is impressive, and growing. The 2012 Olympics are expected to handle 30 percent more key data than was handled in only 2008 in Beijing. Meanwhile, systems in Beijing faced off against 12 million cyber security-related problems each day, classified as "potential" problems. The London Olympics, meanwhile, expect to see at least that number and slightly more--12 to 14 million per day--though only expect that 20 events a day will actually prove to be likely threats and classified as "formal incidents" to hand over to law enforcement.

With plenty at stake--everything from altered results to stolen records to the potential for unauthorized political messages to break onto Olympic scoreboards--the necessity of a well-protected system will always be a factor in all Olympic planning. Atos' protective measures seem to be sufficiently robust to keep the system running at its peak for the Games. It will take the conclusion of the Games, however, to see just how robust the system was, but at this point, Atos' protection measures seem to be best placed to win their own gold.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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