How will cyber threats impact the Beijing Winter Olympics?

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While the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics were hardly a financial success (estimated by some to have cost $ 30 billion), he excelled in one area: cybersecurity. How do the results match up with predictions of past threats, and what, if anything, could that mean for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022?

Cyber ​​security predictions for the Summer Olympics

The Cyber ​​Threat Alliance’s (CTA) Olympic Cybersecurity Working Group has met several times ahead of the Tokyo Olympics initially scheduled for 2020. CTA has prepared a threat analysis for the games and reported on its findings. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics have been delayed until 2021.

A year later, in the CTA April 2021 Olympic Update, the group noted that the dangers presented by Ransomware groups have grown significantly since the publication of the 2020 Summer Olympics report. The updated report also predicted an increased threat from nation-state threat actors seeking to target the Olympics or Olympic Games-related organizations, using techniques such as data theft and disinformation campaigns or possible targeted disruption of the system.

Based on the fact that the Tokyo Olympics would ultimately feature far fewer in-person spectators (and no international spectators), the CTA task force noted that there may be increased demand for live coverage. . And because threat actors may have believed Japan’s cybersecurity capabilities were weakened by COVID-19 and other domestic factors, the group warned of an increased threat.

Tokyo Olympic Games Results
NTT Communications provided telecommunications and network security services for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, including managing some 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. Prior to the event, the organization predicted that
cybercriminals were likely to take advantage of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), ransomware, or other direct attacks against critical infrastructure.

In an October 2021 post-Olympic press release from NTT, the company noted that despite the increase in activity, no IT event ultimately impacted the Olympic or Paralympic Games due to the measures. network security and cybersecurity implemented. Nothing!

The results speak for themselves. The total number of blocked security events, including unauthorized communications to the Olympic website, was 450 million – a huge number, difficult to imagine.

Frankly, that’s an incredible achievement in itself, not to mention the pandemic delays and increased reliance on live streaming due to the COVID-19 spectator ban. Those 450 million attacks also represented a 2.5-fold increase in the total number of events experienced at the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

NTT attributed the success to its “holistic approach to cybersecurity strategy,” which it said included continuous monitoring and analysis of threat intelligence, SOC services, a comprehensive set of security solutions and a team of over 200 cybersecurity specialists.

Beijing outlook
As in Tokyo, no foreigner will be allowed to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics in February or the Paralympics in March, again emphasizing live events for the rest of the world. As such, I think it’s fair to say that we’ll see at least half a billion cyber events, maybe more, directed against the Beijing Olympics. We also know from the NTT report that the threat landscape, including threat actors and their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), has changed significantly from 2020 to 2021, posing new challenges – so we expect to see this trend continue for the Winter Games. in 2022.

While the good news is that NTT will once again provide security for the Winter Olympics, we believe it will again need to reallocate resources and rebuild parts of the security infrastructure to evolve with the threat landscape and ensure the same level of stability that we experienced during the Tokyo games. Beyond the threat of large-scale DDoS attacks, NTT will need to pay particular attention to the danger of small DDoS attacks that, cumulatively, could disrupt live streaming or services critical to the success of digital games.

Digital games are here to stay
While many hoped to attend the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics in person, I think the pandemic has forced many of us, from sports fans to information security professionals, to realize that digital transformation means that we will not travel as often to events such as the Olympics or conferences. Instead, we will increasingly depend on remote and streaming services to observe, communicate and engage with each other. As such, organizations will need to have strong cybersecurity strategies in place, as disruption will not be an option.


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