Winter Olympics 2018 disrupted by cyber attacks ahead of opening

Cyber attacks on Winter Olymics 2018
Participants hold a flag bearing the bidding logo of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, during an event to gather signatures to support Beijing's bid, at a park in Beijing, China, February 8, 2015 REUTERS/Stringer

Since last year, cybersecurity experts had been mindful of possible cyber attacks to happen during the Winter Olympics 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Yet, even before the sports event kicks off next week, there have already been reported attacks and they were reportedly found to be state-sponsored.

The Winter Olympics 2018 may have just experienced the most thoroughly hacked in the games' history. Reports of separate cyber attacks first surfaced this week, pointing to a Russia-linked campaign and another possibly carried out by North Korea.

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South Korea's neighbor's alleged attack was reportedly intended to spy on South Korean Olympics-related organizations. But security researchers overseeing these attacks say the motivation for the attacks remains to be a mystery.

Olympics had been disrupted in different forms before due to long-standing geopolitical tensions. The researchers stress that this pressure between nations has now extended into the digital space.

Cybersecurity firm McAfee earlier said the alleged operation done by North Korea, which it called GoldDragon, has been going on for a month, targeting Olympics-related organizations. The campaign is said to have used three distinct spyware tools--GoldDragon, BravePrince, and GHOST419--on target machines that would enable the attackers to search thoroughly infected computers.

"The Olympics have always been the most politicized sporting event of them all. It's not a surprise at all that they've become a high-profile target for hacking," says Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, in an interview with Wired.

As of the moment, McAfee says the ultimate aim of the malware campaign remains a mystery.

This article was first published on February 4, 2018