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The Race to Secure the 2024 Paris Olympics

Bola Ogbara
Bola Ogbara Connect on LinkedIn
2 min. read

The organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics are racing to strengthen their security amid escalating cyber threats and geopolitical tensions.

The Race to Secure the 2024 Paris Olympics (1)

The 2024 Paris Olympics (running from July 26 to August 11) will be the first regularly scheduled summer Olympics since 2016, following the 2020 summer Olympics that were postponed until 2021. With 206 countries being represented at the event, the anticipation is growing worldwide - and organizers of the Olympics are doing all they can to guarantee it goes safely. State-sponsored threat actors, civil unrest and protests are expected to be sizable threats, but so are cyber attacks.  


Cybersecurity is a growing concern for the Olympic Games. According to the 2020 Tokyo Action and Legacy Report, the last Olympics weathered 450 million cyberattacks, which was more than twice the number of cyberattacks during the 2012 Olympics. Fortunately, none of these attacks had any impact on the Games, but cyberspace has changed significantly since then. "In terms of cybersecurity, four years is the equivalent of a century," said Eric Greffier (the head of partnerships at CISCO). Managing director for IT at Paris 2024, Franz Regul, explained that they are anticipating a large wave of attacks: “We're expecting the number of cyber security event[s] to be multiplied by 10 compared to Tokyo (in 2021)." That would mean well over 4 billion cyberattacks to counter. 


Increasingly tense geopolitics are also a large reason why more cyberattacks are expected at this year’s Games. French President Emmanuel Macron said that he had “no doubt whatsoever” that Russia would target this year’s Olympics, which makes sense considering their more recent attacks on the EU elections. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was banned from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - meaning that Russian athletes would have to compete as individuals without a flag. Now, the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) released a report showing that Russia is trying to slander the IOC’s reputation and spread fear of violence at the 2024 Paris Olympics. 


The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has propelled these disinformation efforts. Russian influence actor, Storm-1679 released a documentary-style film called “Olympics Has Fallen”, referencing the 2013 “Olympus Has Fallen” movie. The movie features Tom Cruise’s voice (possible through AI technology), Netflix’s branding, and fake five-star reviews from important media sources like the BBC. The MTAC reported this as proof that “the content’s creators committed considerable time to the project and demonstrated more skill than most influence campaigns we observe.” 


Fake videos have been a mainstay of Russia’s plan to sow fear about possible terrorism during the Olympics. Posing as Euro News, Storm-1679 claimed that “Parisians were buying property insurance in anticipation of terrorism surrounding the Games.” In another fake video, Storm-1679 masqueraded as France24 to say that “24% of purchased tickets for Olympic events had been returned due to similar fears of terrorism.” Digitally generated images of graffiti released by the actors depicted threats to Israeli attendees of the Games, referencing the attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The MTAC expects to see even more campaigns and bots sharing disinformation about the Games, and promises to monitor the situation. 


While influence actors like Storm-1679 are working hard to disrupt the Games, Paris organizers are working even harder to ensure that things run smoothly. Working with cybersecurity companies Cisco and Eviden, as well as the French national agency for information security (ANSSI), the organizers have tested 500 sites, including competition venues and local collectives. They’ve also been using AI and “paying ‘ethical hackers’ to stress test their systems”. Hopefully, these precautions will be enough to prevent any serious disruptions to the 30th Summer Olympics, guaranteeing the safety of the awe-inspiring athletes competing and the estimated 15 million visitors there to see them.