How hackers were thwarted at the Beijing Olympics

Atos Origin explains how risk-management tech helped to prioritize the real risks hidden within.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor on
The security team behind the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has revealed how it found the real risks hidden within the millions of alerts received every day.

Faced with 12 million alerts per day, the team at the Games' worldwide IT partner, Atos Origin, used in-house risk-management technology to reduce the alerts to just 90 critical alarms, focusing on the most serious risks.

Honey traps were also used to trap several hackers, using results terminals with security holes to lure criminals into attempting to install applications.

At the RSA Conference Europe 2008 in London, Vladan Todorovic, information-security manager for the Beijing Olympics, described how the team coped with the alarms triggered on more than 12,000 devices spread over 70 venues that were thousands of kilometers apart.

Todorovic said: "We were using real-time risk-management technology developed at previous games, including Athens and Salt Lake City."

"We were capable of detecting both the aggressive and slower attacks and prioritizing them accordingly. As you know, we managed it, so there was no effect on the running of the Games," said Todorovic.

The team expects to face new challenges from more wireless public networks at the London 2012 Games and also hopes to perfect new authentication technologies that were not ready for use in the Beijing Games.

The most frequent security events over the course of the Beijing Games related to port security, unauthorized access attempts and bad configurations, with the overall number of security calls rising to their highest level on the seventh day of the event.

The Atos Origin system used multiple servers to correlate unexpected incidents on the system to spot both fast and staggered attempts to hack the network.

Remaining alarms were then prioritized, based on risk - for example, if the alarm was on a system at a venue where an event was taking place or on a key system.

Automated, real-time security audits also allowed Atos Origin to examine every new or reconfigured device connected to the Games' system to check the device had the proper security settings and antivirus software installed.

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