South Korea investigates cyberincident at Pyeongchang Olympics ceremony | News | DW | 11.02.2018
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South Korea investigates cyberincident at Pyeongchang Olympics ceremony

Organizers of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are working to find the source of a cybershutdown during the opening ceremony. The event could be seen by many hackers as a prized target.

South Korea has been investigating a mysterious cybershutdown that affected internal internet and Wi-Fi systems during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on Friday.

Cybersecurity teams and experts from various Korean ministries, including the Defense Ministry, joined a task force to probe the shutdown, games organizers said.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams seemed to suggest there had been an attack but said systems were not in further danger.

"We are not going to comment on the issue. It is one we are dealing with. We are making sure our systems are secure, and they are secure," he said. But he did not reveal the source of the shutdown, saying "best industry practice says that you don't talk about an attack at this stage."

Read more: Cybersecurity: Why it's 'hard to protect yourself' online

Warnings of possible attacks

Other organizers said the problems had been successfully tackled.

"All issues were resolved and recovered yesterday morning," Pyeongchang organizing committee spokesman Sung Baik-you told reporters.

"We know the cause, but that kind of issue occurs frequently during the games. We decided with the IOC we are not going to reveal the source," he added.

Various systems, including the internet and television services, crashed during the ceremony at about 7:15 p.m. (1015 UTC) on Friday and were still not back to normal at midday on Saturday, organizers said.

The shutdown came after warnings that organizations working at the Olympics could be targeted by malware phishing attacks.

General view of performers during the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was marked by hi-tech effects

Wide range of possible sources

The Winter Games are being held just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from North Korea, which has been blamed for a series of cyberincidents, including the WannaCry global ransomware attack last year. North Korea, which is still technically at war with the South after their 1950-1953 conflict ended without a peace treaty, has called such accusations "absurd."

Russia has also faced, and denied, allegations that it has launched hacking attacks on the Pyeongchang Olympics, where its team is formally banned from competing after a systemic doping scheme was uncovered.

Experts believe that the games could be seen as a high-profile target by many hackers seeking kudos from their peers.

"The whole world's watching. It's one of the largest stages you can have to get a message out there," Ross Rustici, director for intelligence at the Boston-based cybersecurity analytics company Cybereason, told the Tribune News Service, adding that many "lower-tier guys" could be after "bragging rights."

tj/jlw (Reuters, AFP)

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