UK Cyber Defences Bolstered For Olympics

The Olympic Games will begin in London in just seven months time, and will reportedly be protected by ‘unprecedented levels’ of cyber security.

This is according to Prime Minister’s national security adviser, Sir Peter Ricketts in an interview with the Times newspaper.

He told the newspaper that Britain’s online defences will be boosted to “unprecedented levels” during the Olympics.

Olympic Threats

The Olympics are set to start in London on 27 July, and the UK government is apparently taking the threat to the games, both physical and online very seriously. Indeed, it has recently emerged for example that 23,700 security guards will be hired, which according to some media reports could lead to the games exceeding the government’s proposed £9.3 billion budget for the games.

Sir Ricketts reportedly said the British Government, as well the security services, are braced for millions of cyber security incidents. He also reportedly said that a special security unit including experts from GCHQ will monitor networks during the Games.

And it seems that the Government is right to be concerned about the level of online threats to the Olympic games. Apparently at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, there was an alarming 12 million such “cyber security incidents”. This was despite the fact that China is protected by its so called “Great Firewall of China”.

In the UK however the online world is much more open than China, and this could presumably lead to a higher number of attacks for the London games. To stop this from happening, the Government has reportedly already begun work to tighten the security of it networks. This includes joining up relevant government departments and conducting exercises.

But what exactly are the potential cyber threats to the Olympic games?

Well according to the Times at least, officials are particularly worried about cyber extortion rackets aimed at hotel and ticket booking companies. These extortion rackets would threaten to take down websites until a “ransom” is paid.

UK Readiness

Meanwhile the UK has been slowly building up its cyber arsenal to counter well organised cyber attacks against the country itself.

In June the UK Ministry of Defence created a joint force command unit, that integrated the MoD’s cyber warfare and military intelligence units. In May, the British government also acknowledged it had begun work on a “toolbox” of offensive cyber-weapons to complement its existing defensive capabilities.

The Government has already committed £650 million over the next four years to build stronger cyber defences. This is because Britain is under constant attack from hackers, and last year 1,000 potentially serious offensives were blocked.

Indeed in October Major General Jonathan Shaw, the head of the Ministry of Defence’s cyber security programme, warned that hacking by foreign governments and corporations is regularly putting British companies out of business.

He also said that Britain may lose its position as one of the world’s leading hi-tech manufacturers unless companies improve their cyber security. However a PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that companies in the UK are expected to spend almost £3 billion on measures to protect their systems this year.

This came after it was revealed that cyber crime costs the UK economy £27 billion annually, according to a report written by the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance and information intelligence experts Detica.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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