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Security experts reveal cyber attack threat to Olympics

'Credible attack' aimed at disrupting the lighting of the opening ceremony

UK authorities have revealed that they were warned to expect a cyber-attack aiming at disrupting the Olympic’s opening ceremony last year.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, head of Olympic cyber security Oliver Hoare said he was woken at 4.45 on the morning of the opening ceremony by a call from GCHQ.

“There was a suggestion that there was a credible attack on the electricity infrastructure supporting the Games,” said Hoare. "And the first reaction to that is, 'Goodness, you know, let's make a strong cup of coffee'."

Hoare went on to say that the security involved had tested “no less than five times” the possibility of a cyber-attack on the electricity infrastructure, but that the threat was still extremely worrying.

“The clock was absolutely ticking,” said Hoare. “I don’t want to go into too much detail about how we put those mitigations in place, but put it this way – we effectively switched to manual. Or had the facility to switch to manual. It's a very crude way of describing it, but effectively we had lots of technicians stationed at various points.”

The threat never materialised, though Hoare recalls speaking to a technician who attempted to reassure him by saying: "Good news. If the lights go down we can get them up and running regardless within 30 seconds."

Hoare was not so easily placated however, stating that “Thirty seconds at the opening ceremony with the lights going down would have been catastrophic in terms of reputational hit. So I watched the opening ceremony with a great deal of trepidation."

Oliver Hoare’s full story will be broadcast on a BBC Radio 4 program entitled Under Attack - The Threat From Cyberspace this evening at 8pm.

The news comes after Sir Iain Lobban, direct of GCHQ revealed earlier this month that the UK suffers around 70 “industrial scale” cyber-attacks each month.

The government also announced recently the creation of the Defence Cyber Protection Partnership (DCPP): an alliance between the Ministry of Defence and leading arms manufacturers and telecoms aimed at sharing intelligence and responding to national cyber threats.