Blunkett warns of cyber terrorist threat to Olympics

Former home secretary fears ticket sales and reservations could come under online attack
  • @janemerrick23

London's Olympic Games could come under attack from cyber terrorists, threatening ticket sales, hotel and airline bookings, David Blunkett, the former home secretary, warned last night.

Mr Blunkett, the chairman of the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (Icspa), told The Independent on Sunday that businesses, government and police need to come together to prevent the growing threat of cyber attacks in Britain.

The Labour MP will address a cyber security summit in London this week, days after the Government unveiled details of £650m in funding to tackle online criminals who could bring airports and power plants to a halt through hacking.

Another former home secretary, Lord Reid of Cardowan, now the chairman of the Institute of Security & Resilience Studies, and the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will also speak at Tuesday's summit.

Lord Reid said last night that the Government's cyber security strategy was "welcome and necessary", but warned that more was needed. He added: "Precisely because this is now an environment that permeates every aspect of our lives we need an enhanced, government-led project to encompass the widest possible understanding and involvement in meeting the challenge."

Mr Blunkett welcomed the government funding but warned that focus on preventing online attacks must not be lost through cuts to the police.

He added: "At a time when the police are under enormous stress, there is a danger that they will lose with one hand and get little back with the other." On the subject of London 2012, Mr Blunkett said: "I am assured the Olympic Security Directorate has got a grip on the physical side and everybody would expect that. It is only over the past year that people have started to seriously acknowledge publicly that a cyber attack could cause major disruption to the staging of the Games, to actual ticketing, to hotel and airline bookings and to the operation of the Games themselves."

He said Atos, the IT company responsible for internet services for the Games, had signed up to Icspa.

Mr Blunkett also warned that Lord Leveson's inquiry into media ethics must go beyond examining issues around phone hacking and be aware of media intrusion through internet surveillance. He added: "What Leveson will have to come to is how we obtain a balance between Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention – namely between the right to privacy and the right to a free press."

The Government's cyber security strategy, unveiled on Friday, includes an elite unit of computer experts working for the police to tackle hackers, which was immediately dubbed iPlod.

One of its first tasks could be to tackle internet fraud on The Guardian's Reader Offers website. An email seen by The IoS from the paper reveals that a number of customers have had fraudulent transactions made against their credit card accounts after the cards were used to buy goods through its website. The email reads: "We, our suppliers and the company who host the Reader Offers goods website for us are currently investigating this situation." Customers were advised to contact their credit card company for advice.