Olympics-Cyber attack seen as emerging threat for London 2012

LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - Olympic organisers are “very alive” to the threat of a cyber attack on the London 2012 Olympics, made more challenging because of its evolving nature, senior Interior Ministry officials said on Tuesday.

Ticketing systems, the transport network and hotel bookings as well as security are among potential targets.

Olympic security officials are also planning for the possible diversion of aircraft to protect airspace around the venues from terrorist attacks, the officials said.

The greatest threat to security at the Games is international terrorism, the government’s latest “Safety and Security Strategy” report said.

“There’s no current evidence of a terrorist threat to 2012,” one of the Interior Ministry officials said.

“But if you look at precedents for sporting events, and to some degree about Olympic events, it would not be beyond the point of imagination to imagine a terrorist threat to 2012 nearer the time.”

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison said it was likely there would be a terrorist threat at the Games but he pointed to Britain’s “long history of delivering safe sporting events”.


Despite the British government on Monday lowering the threat level from international terrorism from “severe” to “substantial”, security planning for the Games will be based on an assumed threat level of severe -- the second highest level.

Interior Minister Alan Johnson said in a statement that security planning was “progressing in good time and to budget”.

A total of 600 million pounds ($980 million) has been put aside for security, but Interior Ministry officials said if the threat increased it could put upward pressure on costs.

The officials, who declined to be named, said a potential cyber attack posed a unique challenge because it was constantly changing and that more funds were being directed at the problem of computer attacks.

“The general challenge reflected in cyber is anticipating what threats will look like three years out, and threats change, the nature of terrorism changes and the nature of serious crime changes as well, and cyber specifically is a really good example of a moving threat,” one of the officials said.

“I think we are very alive to the cyber (issue) and we are very alive to the fact that at the moment it is difficult to predict what it will look like with specific reference to the Games in 2012.”

Officials are also drawing up plans for protecting water and air space around Olympic venues from possible attack, including possibly diverting aircraft. It is expected diversions would most likely affect smaller, private aircraft.

“We do expect there will have to be some management of air space,” another of the Interior Ministry officials said.

“We do not expect that any airports will have to be closed.” (Editing by Sonia Oxley; To comment on this story: