Tokyo Olympics on alert for cyber attacks

Since the London Games, cyber attacks have been increasing, Japan’s Olympic minister says

TOKYO • Tokyo Olympics organisers said yesterday that they were on constant alert for cyber attacks, but had yet to suffer “significant impact” after the UK accused Russia of targeting the Games.

The UK foreign ministry said Russian spies attacked the 2020 Games’ organisers, logistics services and sponsors before the event was postponed by one year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 officials said they had taken a range of countermeasures against digital attacks, but did not disclose details, citing security concerns.

“While we have constantly monitored various types of cyber attack on the digital platforms owned by Tokyo 2020, no significant impact has been observed in our operations,” an organising committee statement said.

The UK’s allegations came as six Russian military intelligence officers were charged in the US with carrying out cyber attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, the 2017 French elections and the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

British daily The Guardian said alleged digital reconnaissance work on Tokyo 2020 had included spearphishing — messages disguised to appear as if from a trusted friend or business connection, but contain malware.

The planned attack also includes the setting up of fake websites and researching individuals’ account security, the newspaper said.

Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto declined to directly address the report yesterday, but said, “since the London Games, cyber attacks have been increasing”.

The US Department of Justice said the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea were targeted after Russian athletes were banned from participating under their own flag because of government-sponsored doping efforts.

“Their cyber attack combined the emotional maturity of a petulant child with the resources of a nation-state,” he said, adding that they attempted to pin it on North Korea.

“During the opening ceremony, they launched the ‘Olympic Destroyer’ malware attack, which deleted data from thousands of computers supporting the Games, rendering them inoperable,” he said.

Lee Hee-beom, former president and CEO of the Pyeongchang organising committee, said he was unaware who was responsible for the attack until now.

“There was hacking on an opening day but we could not confirm its source,” Lee told AFP.

“Internet connection was lost right after the ceremony from the hacking and we had to mobilise experts to restore it all night. Until now, I did not know who had done it.”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin denied yesterday the US’ allegation that Russian military intelligence was behind cyber attacks targeting Ukraine’s power grid, the 2017 French election and the 2018 Winter Olym- pic Games.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described US charges against six Russian intelligence officers as “rampant Russophobia which, of course, have nothing to do with reality”. — AFP