The 2012 London Olympics was targeted by what appeared to be a state-sponsored cyber attack, one of six major attempts to disrupt the event.
Speaking at the Datacentre Dynamics Converged event in London, 2012 Olympics CIO Gerry Pennell said that attacks on systems came from a number of sources, one of which was likely to have been a nation-state.
“We had six serious cyber attack incidents: they ranged from an automated botnet-driven attack on our website from 90 IP addresses across Europe and North America, to a much more serious 330,000 packet per second DDoS on one of the IP addresses as part of our service to press agencies,” Pennell said.
“There was also something that looked suspiciously like a state attack, that happened about six days into the Games. Happily, we had been advised in the past that something like this might happen and we made some configuration changes on the Akamai piece which fielded that, but another agency did get affected.”
Pennell added that there were also attempts by ‘hactivist’ groups to disrupt the event, but used social media monitoring to help anticipate attacks.
“What we had really expected before the games was the Anonymous-type groups to start doing stuff, and sure enough they did, though their impact was very limited,” he said.
"The fascinating thing about this was how these informal groups operate, because they basically put up websites and use Twitter and say ‘let’s attack the Games’ at a certain time.
“Of course we are monitoring social media so we knew they were coming. We were watching that very closely.”
Prior to the start of the event, Pennell had led scenario-based tests of systems and procedures to ensure that organisers could respond to any threats, he said, and this helped prevent major disruption.
“The good news is that none of the attacks actually caused us a real problem. We have been very careful in the design of our network to make sure that even if an attack had been partially successful, it couldn’t affect the operation of the Games.”