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BT: Olympics cyber attackers were amateurs

No match for exhaustive planning and over-provisioning

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Some writers were apparently less than enthused by BT’s attempts to locate and clean up any infected machines – valuing their right to privacy on the network more than the impact their infected machines had on others.

In the end, 18 months of war gaming and huge over-provisioning of network infrastructure meant BT was able to cope with the threats that presented themselves to an infrastructure that had to be basically completed by 2010.

Attack traffic averaged less than one per cent of total volumes, with most of that figure accounted for by “background noise” rather than anything specifically targeted at the Games, Packman added.

However, he admitted that BT was in charge only of security around the network perimeter, and that Atos – which dealt with IT security proper – may have different war stories to tell of the Games.

Schneier on security

BT’s chief security technology officer, Bruce Schneier also dropped into Hong Kong to share his unique brand of socio-techno philosophising and insight into the Games.

According to Schneier, every system – be it social, biological, etc. – requires co-operation to work properly, but there will also inevitably be ‘defectors’ – those who choose not to co-operate – and it is security which “keeps defectors down to an acceptable level”.

“Security is a tax on the honest in a very real sense because nothing Phil Packman did in a sense made anything better, it just stopped other people making things worse,” he said.

“This is why our jobs are so difficult, because if you do a good job no-one knows.”

He also warned that the gap between the attackers taking advantage of new technologies and law enforcement and others catching up is greater than it has ever been.

However, Schneier ended on a positive note.

“Threats are what we [as security professionals] work with. The bad things as a percentage of the whole are tiny – we’re doing really well, even though things are pretty bad out there and getting worse,” he said.

“I’m a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist.” ®

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