Cyber Attack Is Top Threat for Olympics: Expert

Terrorists combining a cyber attack with physical violence are the biggest security threat facing the 2012 Olympics, a digital forensics expert told CNBC.

2012 Olympic Rings Unveiled at St Pancras International Station
Paul Gilham
2012 Olympic Rings Unveiled at St Pancras International Station

“What we really have to worry about is the blended attack, in other words, someone causing a temporary disruption to the electronic structure, combined with a physical attack,” said Professor Peter Sommer, who acts as a court expert on cyber crime.

“The fact that you have the electronic attack makes it more difficult to deal with the physical attack,” he added.

With this year’sGames (taking place from July to September, including the Paralympics) expected to be the most hi-tech yet, Sommer says the “sheer number” of interlocking electronic systems makes the event vulnerable.

“We have a large numbers of systems, some of them central, some of them less obvious — but which may nevertheless be important — any of which could be attacked by any of a large number of people who have a message to make to the world, because that is what the Olympics gives them a chance to do,” he said.

In a statement on December 15, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said 13,500 members of the armed forces would be deployed to support the police in securing the Olympics. Two warships, HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark, will be supplied by the Royal Navy, while the Royal Air Force will provide helicopters and Typhoon aircraft.

The use of new and untested technology means the Games are vulnerable to technological hiccups as well as terrorism, added Sommer.

The Games online ticketing system has already suffered several glitches, with the ticket website being temporary suspended after it crashed due to a high number of users.