As the Paris Olympics approach, public and private players in the IT security sector are working together as best, they can. Paris has seen big for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (JOP) 2024. It is still necessary to succeed in securing its ambitions.
However, two years from the opening of the JOP in Paris, the figures make you dizzy: 7.3 billion euros in the budget, 13.4 million tickets on sale, 600,000 spectators expected for the opening ceremony on the quays of the Seine and nearly 40 sites in Île-de-France and in the regions. And cyber risk is everywhere. Ticketing, personal data, video retransmission or surveillance systems. So many risks of computer attacks that must be prevented.
In 2016, the organizers of the Olympic Games in Rio recorded around half a billion computer attacks (or 400 per second). Four years later, in Tokyo, 815 computer attacks per second were recorded. Asked by AFP, the president of the 2024 Olympics organizing committee, Tony Estanguet, confirms: “We have no doubt that we will be attacked, permanently. […] There must be no flaw in any possible entry, within the collaborators, the software, the ecosystem.
“There were moments of friction”
The cyber threat is multiple. In a report published in 2021, the National Information Systems Security Agency (Anssi), a major player in computer security for the Paris Olympics, provides an overview: it can be state, cybercriminal, cyberterrorist or activist. And according to Bertrand Le Gorgeu, sector coordinator for major sporting events at Anssi, “it is the state threat which is, by far, the most dangerous”.
To avoid a remake of the fiasco of the 2022 Coupe de la Ligue final at the Stade de France, all the security and prevention services of the Ministry of the Interior are mobilized. In total, more than a dozen departments are involved in defining the cyber defense strategy for the Paris Olympic Games, placed under the aegis of the interministerial delegate for the JOP and the national coordination body for the security of the Olympic Games and Paralympics 2024.
But according to a ministerial source within the delegation responsible for supervising the smooth running of the experiments with cybersecurity tools, the beginnings were marked by numerous incidents: “There were moments of friction”, explains our source to many times. “Until June, a large number of players were absent from the discussion and the ministry had not yet issued all the calls for expressions of interest to industrialists.”
Chargé de mission to the ministry, the expert in cybersecurity and intelligence in open sources adds: “There is a certain competition between the services of the Ministry of the Interior. Everyone has their own methods, needs and not all are at the same level in cyber matters. Adjustments had to be made.
Called Monday, July 25 by President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée, an Olympic meeting bringing together a dozen ministers, the police prefects of Île-de-France and the president of the organizing committee of the Olympic Games, Tony Estanguet, has clarified the chain of command. The management of the security of the event now belongs to the Ministry of the Interior.
The fear of demobilization
Placed under the control of the ministerial directorate for partnerships, strategies and security innovations, the experimentation phase of cybersecurity technologies began last April. The industrial sector has prepared for it. Industrial committees have been set up to respond effectively to calls for expressions of interest issued by the government, as part of the overall strategy to combat cyber threats defended by Place Beauvau. This phase should end in December 2022. At the end, a report will be sent to the authorities, with a view to acquiring the technologies selected.
The importance of meeting the deadlines is twofold: for manufacturers, the financial compensation for these experiments ends on 31 December. From January 2023, the acquisition of the technologies selected by the State will then allow their full-scale testing during the many sporting and cultural events (like the 2023 Rugby World Cup), which will be held until the launch. of the Paris Olympics, scheduled for July 26, 2024.
Contacted by Slate, an internal source at the Ministry of the Interior assures that “overall, all the experiments should be completed on time”. But the requirements of the different departments cause slowdowns. The summer holidays, the many sporting or cultural events of this period and, above all, the coming social re-entry raise fears of a mobilization of engaged forces.
“There will be a certainly busy return to school and the various security forces of the Ministry of the Interior will each have other things to do”, explains our source “All these events are conducive to the forces not always being as available as we would like.
The Paris Olympics must allow cyber and French digital security to become “a sector of the future”. Despite the presence of several international players in the organization of these Olympic Games, such as the American Cisco or the Chinese giant Alibaba, the ministry assures it: “No American or Israeli technology will be selected”. French companies will be given priority, including at least 30% of SMEs.
As part of the recovery plan put in place by the government, 20 million euros have been released by Bercy. Still, the Court of Auditors does not hide its fears. Already in April 2021, responsible for studying the management of the organization of Paris 2024, she noted as a positive point the increase in investments in terms of security. But the financial jurisdiction is however concerned about the contours of the computer system deployed within the framework of the French Olympics.
In a 76-page interim report, revealed by Le Canard enchaîné in early July, the Court of Auditors reiterates its warnings. She affirms again that it is “imperative” to accelerate the pace to meet the “considerable security challenge” represented by these “protean threats”.
The final version of this document, which was recently transmitted to the authorities, will be published by the end of the year, with the responses of the various parties taking part in the organisation. But according to the media who have consulted him, he is already saying in hollow the excess of such an event. Security therefore remains a sensitive issue for the Paris 2024 Olympics, for which 22,000 to 33,000 agents should be employed per day, according to estimates by the Court of Auditors.