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Summer Olympics Security Preparing for Cyber Attacks

Taking notes from the 12 million cyber security incidents that took place during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said that London is gearing up to expect the worst when the Olympic games come to town this summer.

Maude, who is responsible for the UK's Office of Cyber Security, said that UK government networks continue to be regularly targeted by foreign intelligence agencies, or groups working on their behalf. Even more, the threat is accelerating at an alarming rate.

"We have rightly been preparing for some time a dedicated unit which will help guard the London Olympics against cyber attack," he said at the International Center for Defense Studies in Estonia. "We are determined to have a safe and secure Games."

Combating against hackers is seemingly brutal. Governments and corporations worldwide are consistently outpaced as hackers find new ways to get around new security measures each and every day. Maude pointed out that high-end cyber security solutions that were used 18 months ago by a limited number of organizations to protect their networks may already be out in the open marketplace. This leak gives hackers the knowledge to get around these protective measures.

"Our responses have to be fast and flexible," he said. "What works one day is unlikely to work a matter of months or even weeks later."

Overall he insisted that the UK government would resist the temptation to over-regulate and control the internet. After all, they're not trying to protect citizens from the internet, which "remains a massive force for good in the world." Instead, government action needs to "protect the internet from hostile actors - the criminals, the hackers, the terrorists - who want to exploit it for less positive ends."

"And as we meet the challenges presented by cyberspace, and shape its future, governments need to resist the temptation to over regulate and control," he said. "The internet after all has flourished precisely because it has been shaped by its users, not by governments."

Back in 2008, the team at the Olympic Games' worldwide IT partner, Atos Origin, faced 12 million hacking alerts each day. Alarms triggered on more than 12,000 devices spread across 70 venues that were thousands of miles apart. To filter through the potential garbage, they used in-house risk-management technology to reduce the alerts to just 90 critical alarms. This allowed the team to focus on the most serious incoming risks.

"We were using real-time risk-management technology developed at previous games, including Athens and Salt Lake City," said Vladan Todorovic, information-security manager for the Beijing Olympics. "We were capable of detecting both the aggressive and slower attacks and prioritizing them accordingly. As you know, we managed it, so there was no effect on the running of the Games."

Many hackers were caught in intentionally-set "honey traps." These traps used results terminals with security holes to lure criminals into attempting to install applications. But the team expects to face even more challenges at the London Olympics this summer stemming from a growth of wireless networks over the past four years. To help combat the new threat, they hope to use new authentication technologies that were not ready for use in the Beijing Games.

Previously Atos Origin said that the most frequent security events over the course of the Beijing Games related to port security, unauthorized access attempts and bad configurations. The number of alerts peaked on the seventh day of the event.