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Photo Credit: The Cyber Express

 France prepares for cyberattacks during 2024 Olympics

As the world eagerly anticipates the Summer Olympics scheduled to kick off in Paris from July 26 to Aug. 11, concerns regarding cybersecurity threats loom large, particularly against the backdrop of escalating tensions over the war in Ukraine. 

Vincent Strubel, the head of France’s cybersecurity agency, ANSSI, emphasized the potential vulnerability of the event to various hacking attempts during an interview on Monday.

According to Strubel, the Olympics face multifaceted threats ranging from adversarial countries to criminal syndicates wielding ransomware. He also highlighted the presence of Russian-aligned “hacktivists” who could exploit their computer skills to advance political agendas.

The specter of cyberattacks targeting major international events is not unprecedented. The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, experienced internet disruptions attributed to a cyberattack, with security experts swiftly pointing fingers at Russia. President Emmanuel Macron of France echoed concerns about potential Russian interference in the upcoming Paris Olympics, although no specific details were provided.

Russian athletes are set to participate in the Paris Games, albeit not under their country’s flag due to Russia’s ban from the Olympics over its annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Strubel emphasized that geopolitical tensions, particularly the conflict in Ukraine, significantly influence the threat assessment for the Games. He noted the surge in cyberattacks by Russia-based hackers since the onset of the Ukrainian war, often targeting French institutions following gestures of support for Ukraine.

Aside from state-sponsored or state-aligned hacking, France is bracing for ransomware attacks against businesses and organizations, a trend mirrored in recent years in the United States. 

Strubel anticipates a potential surge in such criminal operations during the Olympics, characterizing the event as a lucrative opportunity akin to “Black Friday every day for two weeks” for cybercriminals.

In preparation, sports federations, stadiums, and local authorities have been collaborating with ANSSI to bolster security measures and refine response protocols. The overarching objective is to thwart major cyberattacks on critical infrastructure while enhancing readiness to mitigate minor incidents.

Despite concerted efforts to fortify cybersecurity defenses, Strubel stressed the inevitability of cyberattacks during the Games. In response, ANSSI aims to disseminate timely and accurate information to quell panic and counter misinformation, thereby ensuring the smooth conduct of the Paris Olympics amidst the digital battlefield.

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