The Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place in Paris this year are set to mark another important chapter in the history of world sport. In addition to celebrating the athletes’ ability to reach new heights of performance, the Games will be the most modern ever held. With an estimated global audience of billions, thousands of spectators in Paris and more than 10 million tickets available, the event will be a great platform for technological innovation, which could transform the way we follow competitions.

With the slogan Games Wide Open, France is preparing to have festivities all over the country, seeking to enable maximum participation of people and free of charge. However, given the magnitude of this event, involving more than 10,000 athletes representing more than 200 countries, millions of individuals, hundreds of suppliers and countless expectations for a unique experience, the games need to be “well closed” in terms of cybersecurity and for the cyber threats to come.

Digital security will be at the centre of attention for the French authorities and the competition’s organising committee, especially after digital attacks were placed as the main dangers for the period alongside terrorism. The expected viewership around the world will turn the Olympics and Paralympics into an unprecedented global showcase, attracting hackers who will want to show off their power.

The risks are numerous and include cybercriminal activities in critical environments, leakage of confidential information, manipulation of results, and disruption of indispensable systems, including the possibility of impacting the transmission to viewers’ homes globally. Therefore, the creation of a robust and secure digital infrastructure is crucial to protect the integrity, reliability and monitoring of the Games.

High-speed connectivity will play a central role in transmitting uninterrupted data and image quality. The official mobile apps will carry out various activities, such as the dissemination of information in real time, including results and important news to fans and for press coverage. These applications must be protected against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and ransomware attacks, for example, so that critical actions are not compromised.

With valuable information being exchanged between organizations, vendors, spectators, and athletes, data leakage can seriously impact people and businesses. This threat should also be analyzed when we think about the use of Wi-Fi networks made available by cities. Effective protection of these networks is essential to mitigate the possibility of exposure from the invasion of devices connected to them.

Service providers can also be targeted, causing disastrous impacts. Imagine the chaos that would occur if the company supplying energy to the competition venues was attacked and had operations unavailable for days. Therefore, it is imperative that security planning involves all the actors responsible for the development of the event, and especially the mission-critical service providers.

Another risk lies in the creation of fake websites, but extremely similar to the official ones, to deceive people in search of tickets or information with the intention of accessing their credentials for fraud. Care should also be taken with pirated broadcasts of the Games, which use parallel channels to install malware on the devices that access them for data misappropriation.

Thousands of hours of cybersecurity testing are already being conducted to mitigate these threats. Initiatives such as the creation of security operations centers; orchestration, automation, and coordination of security responses; security information and event management; advanced data leakage protection; The use of artificial intelligence (AI), among other initiatives, is also already being adopted.

Given this challenging scenario, it is worth noting that, despite the fact that the eyes of cybercriminals are very focused on France during the period, they will still take advantage of the attention received by the games to apply attacks in other countries. This means that the dangers will also be directed at companies that are not linked to the competitions, and they need to protect themselves. Brazilians, passionate about sports, will use corporate networks and devices to search for information, with chances of falling into fake portals. Phishing campaigns targeting employees using the popularity of the Olympics and Paralympics as bait can result in unauthorized access to sensitive systems. We can certainly expect an avalanche of attempted invasions during the period.

To meet this challenge, a comprehensive approach must be applied to strengthen digital defenses. It’s crucial to invest in awareness and training for employees, especially warning of pitfalls in emails. Implementing measures such as the use of next-generation firewalls, intrusion prevention and advanced threat protection systems, systems for content and application control, and for secure access, is also essential to protect the digital infrastructure.

Cybersecurity will be a key element in the credibility and success of the Games. Collaboration between sports organizations, government authorities, and companies is the foundation for ensuring systems reliability and data privacy. But this should not be the focus only in France. Organizations across the globe need to prepare for imminent dangers. After all, what should really be great at the Games are the records broken, not the cybersecurity incidents.

*Eduardo Bouças is CEO of Blockbit


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