The Olympics: Users must protect their own cyberspace

Most reports talk about the physical security deployed against physical terrorist attacks: Royal Navy warships on the Thames, ground-to-air missiles in the capital, a no-fly zone enforced by the Royal Air Force, and more ground troops than the UK has in Afghanistan. But the AP report also discusses the intelligence effort – including “hundreds of American intelligence, security and law enforcement officials” and dozens of Interpol officers that will be embedded with their British counterparts.

One of the key functions of Interpol, secretary general Ronald K. Noble told the Associated Press, will be to speed the interchange of intelligence between different national law enforcement agencies. The UK already scans Interpol data 150 million times per year. “But this Olympics — from all that I know and based on all the information that Interpol has,” he added, “should be a safe Olympics.”

However, London is not relying on foreign intelligence. “Special Israeli surveillance technology has been rolled out for the Olympics across Britain,” claims the report, “a country already known for its 4 million closed-circuit television cameras. Even more cameras have been installed at the Olympic Park.” And according to an  anonymous salesman with an Israeli company, “advanced facial and image recognition software will be used to identify suspects and connect multiple crime scenes.”

Most will remember the 7/7 London attacks, where one bomb detonated within a London bus. Now the buses have been fitted with their own form of ‘behavioral analysis’ technology that will detect a bus behaving “erratically — something that might happen in a hijacking.” Authorities will be able to stop a vehicle remotely or keep it going at a certain speed, “technology that could be useful if a terrorist were carrying explosives and threatening to crash a bus full of athletes into a crowded venue.”

But while the authorities can take measures to protect the Games from physical threat, it remains largely down to users to protect themselves from the associated and escalating Olympics cyberthreat. Kaspersky senior regional researcher David Emm has been outlining some of his concerns. One of these is the possible combination of cybersquatting and phishing. He uses www.london2o12.com as a potential example. It looks close enough to the official site to fool many – but such misnames could lead to a phishing site. 

“This could be used to sell bogus tickets,” he warns, “or simply to trick people into entering personal information.  Phishers don't just use e-mail to drive people to such sites.  These days, cybercriminals are just as likely to use instant messaging or messages in social networks.  Huge numbers of people now use social networks, so we're likely to see more of this as the games approach.”

But there’s one further danger he highlights: Wi-Fi networks. “In an 'always-on' world, Wi-Fi offers a way of staying connected; and you can find a Wi-Fi hot-spot nearly everywhere you go now.  But if it's an unknown, untrusted Wi-Fi network, it's possible for someone to intercept any data you transmit.” Make sure, he adds, “you have a secure connection by always using 'https'; and use a unique, complex password for every online account, for example one that mixes letters, numbers and symbols and is more than eight characters.”

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