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Reports reveal plan by Russian intelligence services to hack Tokyo Olympics

Reports reveal plan by Russian intelligence services to hack Tokyo Olympics
October 20, 2020

Russian military intelligence services were planning a cyber-attack on the Japanese-hosted Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this summer according to the UK National Cyber Security Centre.

As reported overnight, the Russian Government's GRU military intelligence carried out "cyber reconnaissance" against Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games officials and organisations with the aim of disrupting activity.

The alleged attacks took place before this year’s Olympics were postponed until 2021 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The report, resulting from a joint UK/US security operation revealed that Russian cyber-reconnaissance work was targeting Games organisers, logistics services and sponsors.

At the same time, the US Department of Justice announced charges against six Russian GRU officers for alleged cyber-attacks serving "the strategic benefit of Russia".

The are alleged to have sought to disrupt the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, the 2017 French Presidential election, and Ukraine's power grid.

Describing the planned attacks on the Games as "cynical and reckless", UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated “we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

"The UK will continue to work with our allies to call out and counter future malicious cyber-attacks."

The report also revealed details of the attack on the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, apparently designed to look like it came from North Korea or China.

It is thought that this attempt at disruption, like the 2018 attack on the Winter Olympics, was in response to Russia being excluded from sporting events for doping violations.

The 2018 hacking saw some attendees were unable to print tickets for the opening ceremony, leaving empty seats. However, this is the first time the UK Government has formally attributed that attack to Russia.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre said the 2018 attack was "intended to sabotage the running of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games" by disabling its networks.

One method was to deploy malware that deleted data from the computer systems used that year.

Other targets included broadcasters, a ski resort, Olympic officials, service providers and sponsors of the games in 2018, meaning the objects of the attacks were not just in Korea.

The GRU also deployed data-deletion malware against the winter Games IT systems and targeted devices across South Korea using a VPN filter.

The UK assumes that the reconnaissance work for the summer Olympics – including spearphishing to gather key account details, setting up fake websites and researching individual account security – was designed to mount the same form of disruption, making the Games a logistical nightmare for business, spectators and athletes.

UK Foreign Secretary Raab added “the GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

British officials pointed out that Russia at the UN general assembly had signed up to an Olympic truce, including a commitment not to disrupt, or in any way undermine, the safety of the Games.

Lower image shows the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, reportedly hacked by the Russian Government's GRU military intelligence service.

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