The greatest show on earth: protecting the Olympics [RSA Conf]

BT's Hughes

Here is the thing: as fun and great as the Olympic Games was, it was a technological nightmare for the security teams involved. “The technology was being used and the way security was being delivered during the 2008 Beijing Games was very different to what we had to do for 2012,” explains Mark Hughes, Chief Executive Officer for BT Security.

According to Hughes, around 212-million malicious attacks on the London 2012 site were blocked during the games. Speaking at the RSA security’s conference in Amsterdam, Hughes revealed what it took to safeguard the network from attack.

He pointed out that, although his team had seven years to prepare for the games, the environment they found was very different to what they expected.

“There were 94 venues that we had to provide services for and those services and venues needed to be properly secured,” he says. “The infrastructure that was put in place to serve the games had to be sustainable, meaning we needed to make sure it could also last for the future as well.”

For Hughes and his teams, in order to service the games, some impressive architecture needed to be locked down months before the opening ceremony. According to Hughes the way people use their tech such as smartphone changes so rapidly and the way people consume WiFi changes even more drastically, so even months before the games “we were still researching the best way to delivery great service”.

The Olympics 2012 site was one of the most popular sites in 2012, receiving around 39.6-billion visits during the games. “We had to make sure the site was resilient and could handle whatever came at it and could be accessed in different ways. You could call 2012 the most digitally connected games ever,” says Hughes.

The BT team didn’t go in blind: the previous games had given them an idea of what to expect. Security and cyber terrorism is a known threat in today’s society. In Beijing, it was reported that there were 12-million attacks per day on the Olympics infrastructure. In Vancouver, this rose to 20-million attacks per day, and yet there is only 21% increased technology security and resilience.

Even with the head start in preparing for the games, Hughes says that a lot was changing and his team needed to be flexible in their design. Around 90 test events happened in the run up to the games, along with three years for preparation and war games with simulated DDoS attack to get the site ready.

Through all that, Hughes says his team delivered a flawless execution in web security, with at least one hacktivism campaign a day, 50 terabytes of web traffic via proxy servers and 11 000 malicious attacks per second.



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