October 10, 2017

CLTC Issues Report on the Cybersecurity of Olympic Sports

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The UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC) has released a new report focused on the rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity in sports, with an emphasis on the Olympic Games. The report, “The Cybersecurity of Olympic Sports: New Opportunities, New Risks,” is an unprecedented look into how the proliferation of new technologies in major sporting events—from digital display panels in stadiums to online ticketing systems to artificial intelligence-based scoring software—opens the door to cyberattacks that could threaten public safety, diminish the fan experience, and undermine the integrity of competition.

“This report examines the potential impacts of digital technology in all aspects of sports, from how athletes train to how officials make decisions,” explains Betsy Cooper, Executive Director of the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, who was the lead author of the report. “We hope our research will help organizers of the Olympics and other major sporting events as they think about planning for security today and into the future.”

CLTC produced the report through a partnership with Cal Athletics (the University of California, Berkeley’s athletics department) as well as the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the 2028 Olympic Games. Using the Olympic Games as a case study, the report introduces a framework for evaluating potential risks posed by digital technologies in sports, and highlights possible threats that will arise as these technologies are deployed. The study identifies key areas of risk, including hacks on stadiums, scoring systems, and photo and video replay systems; manipulation of digital systems used by athletes for training and self-care; hacks on transportation and entry systems; as well as more extreme attacks designed to induce panic or facilitate terrorism or kidnapping.

The report also includes fictional news stories from the future to highlight hypothetical incidents. One shows how malicious actors seeking to disrupt the Olympics could cause mass panic in a stadium by hacking into digital display panels. Another story highlights how hackers could manipulate a software-based scoring system in gymnastics, throwing a marquee event into chaos. A third story focuses on how “smart” appliances installed in athletes’ residences in the Olympics Village could be hacked and used for surveillance. The report suggests that sporting event planners should consider the potential cybersecurity implications of any new technology, noting that “organizers should press to ensure that there are tangible benefits to incorporating digital devices—and that significant risks can be mitigated—before going forward.”

Download “The Cybersecurity of Olympic Sports: New Opportunities, New Risks” here.