Hackers targeted the electricity grid powering the London 2012 Olympics stadium on the eve of the opening ceremony, Olympic cyber security head Oliver Hoare has revealed.
Hoare revealed that the games were hit with a serious and "credible" cyber attack during an interview with the BBC. "I got a phone call at quarter to five, which is always disturbing, particularly on your day off, but more disturbing because of the fact the phone call was from GCHQ and there was a suggestion that there was a credible attack on the electricity infrastructure supporting the games," he said.
Hoare said the attack, while serious, was countermanded by meticulous preparations prior to the event, which ensured even if the lights went down, they could be recovered.
"I don't want to go into too much detail how we put those mitigations in place but – put basically – we switched to manual or had the facility to switch to manual. It's a very crude way to describe it, but effectively we had lots of technicians stationed at strategic points and we, of course, had a tremendous amount of work done on resilience and power – to the extent I think that even if all the lights went out in east London you could guarantee the Olympics Stadium would still be burning brightly," he said.
"Those were put in place and I distinctly remember a conversation about an hour before, being asked, ‘Well, what's the situation?' And I said: 'The good news is if the lights go down, I can get them up and running regardless within 30 seconds.' On the surface you may say, ‘Wow that's great,' but 30 seconds at the opening ceremony with the lights going down would have been catastrophic in terms of reputation."
Hoare's comments follow wider reports that hackers had laid siege to the Olympic networks for the duration of the event. Prior to Hoare, BT revealed the London 2012 website was subjected to over 200 million attacks during the two-week event. The revelation comes during a wider boom in the number of cyber attacks targeting the UK.
Experts from both the public and private sector have warned that state and lone wolf hackers have been developing new and more dangerous ways to infiltrate companies' networks. The UK government has implemented several new directives and initiatives to deal with the increased threat.
Most recently minister for defence equipment, support and technology, Philip Dunne announced that the government has forged partnerships with nine of the country's largest contractors to help protect British supply chains.
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