Tokyo readies for cyber attacks during Olympics

Tokyo Olympics organising committee officials are optimistic the rescheduled Games will go ahead in July despite pandemic concerns.
Tokyo Olympics organising committee officials are optimistic the rescheduled Games will go ahead in July despite pandemic concerns.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The organising committee of the delayed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics has trained 220 IT security experts or so-called white-hat hackers to protect the Games from cyber attacks.

The "ethical hackers" now working for the organising committee are mostly employees of Japanese multinational conglomerates, including NTT and NEC.

They have undergone an extensive training programme on the assumption the Olympics' opening ceremony, due to be held on July 23, could be disrupted by cyber attacks, according to officials.

The Pyeongchang Winter Games in 2018 fell victim to a cyber attack and suffered system problems on the day of the opening ceremony, which forced South Korean organisers to make changes to the programme. There were also disruptions to Internet access and broadcasting services.

Last year, the US Justice Department charged six Russian military intelligence officers in connection with international hacking, accusing them of worldwide cyber attacks that included targeting the Pyeongchang Games.

The British government has also said Russia's military intelligence service has carried out cyber attacks against the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics and other associated entities.

As part of efforts to ensure a successful Olympics, the cyber security training consisted of lectures on 20 subjects and exercises, where members were divided into groups to protect their system from attacks of other teams.

In a bid to protect critical infrastructure, such as electricity and transportation systems, teams of cyber security experts have also been established in their respective fields to share information.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought about increased difficulties. Since many officials working for the Tokyo Games have been telecommuting, there has been growing concern that devices being used to work from home will be targeted.

In addition, the Tokyo Games may limit spectator numbers, which increases the demand for events to be streamed. But the authorities have vowed to overcome the hurdles.

"The Games themselves will be in cyberspace. The host country has the responsibility to share (them) with the world," a Japanese government official said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2021, with the headline 'Tokyo readies for cyber attacks during Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe