Concerns are mounting over possible cyberattacks targeting the Tokyo Olympics, set to kick off on July 23.
In recent years, an increasing number of attacks have been reported — some conducted for money, others allegedly state-sponsored.
Institutions linked to the Tokyo Olympics are boosting their vigilance under the scenario that offenders may commit cyberattacks for fame or political reasons at a time when the sporting event with almost no spectators amid the COVID-19 pandemic is drawing international attention.
Past Olympic Games have been targeted by cyberattacks.
An attack targeting the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics exposed online participating athletes’ medical information stolen from the database of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
A system glitch that occurred just before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, caused a temporary suspension of the issuance of tickets.
The U.S. Justice Department concluded that these incidents were directed by a unit of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.
The Russian side denied involvement in these cases, which were, however, widely seen as Russia’s retaliation against WADA’s punishment of its systemic doping.
Russian athletes will take part in the Tokyo Olympics as individual competitors due to a ban on the dispatch of athletes from Russia.
In October last year, the British government said that the GRU conducted cyber reconnaissance on organizations related to the Tokyo Games.
China and North Korea are believed to be among countries conducting state-sponsored cyberattacks.
An environment has been set up for North Korea, which will be absent from the Tokyo Games, to conduct an attack, which will unlikely affect its people, one police source said.
Sponsor companies for the Tokyo Games could fall prey to ransomware attacks raging across the world.
“We’re implementing measures after examining past damage cases,” one source linked to the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee stressed.
Envisaged offenders include so-called hacktivists, who aim to play up environmental, human rights and other political issues, and hackers hoping to display their technical skills.
“We should think that it’s natural for cyberattacks to hit the Tokyo Games. It’s important to fix things quickly and leave no severe results if there is damage (from such attacks),” said Isao Itabashi, a cybersecurity expert who heads the research center at the Council for Public Policy.
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