Cyber attacks launched at London 2012 Olympic Games every day

The IT supporting the London 2012 Olympics was hit by cyber attacks every day during the Games, says London 2012 CIO Gerry Pennell

The IT supporting the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics was hit by cyber attacks every day during the Games, including some that were well organised and automated and one in particular that was a major assault.

London 2012 CIO Gerry Pennell revealed the scale of the threats that the Olympics successfully coped with in an exclusive post-Games interview with Computer Weekly.

"We were attacked every day," Gerry Pennell said.

"Some of the attacks were fairly well orchestrated. Some just before the Games were automated. We prepared for this well in advance so it didn't cause us any problems."

When asked if London 2012 was hit by a particularly major cyber attack, Pennell simply replied: "Yes. And that's all I'm saying."

Inside the Olympics Technology Operations Centre on the 21st floor of London's Canary Wharf, there was even a special security hotline, housed inside a glass phone booth, with a direct connection to "relevant authorities" in the event of a major attack, according to Pennell.

However, while some threats were potentially serious, others were easier to defend.

"It was interesting watching some of it because some of the groups that were involved, from the hacktivist community, once they got fed up of trying to take us down moved their attentions to other organisations," he said.

"Entertainingly, some of this stuff was remarkably easy to track as there was the hashtag #letthegamesbegin, and they were publishing when they were going to attack – '7pm on Friday night let's have a go at the website'. There were other more serious attacks, none of it caused a problem, but that's down to the right amount of planning and energy in preparation."

Much of the Olympics website operation involved pushing out information about events and results. Using a content distribution network minimised the risks, as there was no single point of weakness.

"We use a content delivery network to push out data, which makes it hard for us to be hit by a denial of service attack because our front end is highly distributed," Pennell said in a separate interview before the Games. became the most popular sports website in the world during the Games, with 38.3 billion page views, peaking at 96,871 page views per second.

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