Report outlines cybersecurity threats for Olympics, other sporting events

(iStock illustration.)

You don’t have to be Michael Phelps to know that sports can often be so much more than just a game.

A new report from the Center for Long-term Cybersecurity based at UC Berkeley’s School of Information shows how malicious manipulation of new digital technologies can threaten public safety, undermine a competition’s integrity and diminish the fan experience.

The report, released on Tuesday, was produced through a partnership between the center, Cal Athletics and the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the 2028 Olympic Games. It used the Olympic Games as a case study.

It identifies key areas of risk, including:

  • Hacks on stadiums’ ticketing and scoring systems as well as photo and video replay systems, along with transportation and entry systems.
  • Manipulation of systems used for athletes’ training and self-care.
  • Hacks that induce or facilitate terrorism and kidnapping.

“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,” said Betsy Cooper, the center’s executive director.

“Organizers should press to ensure that there are tangible benefits to incorporating digital devices — and that significant risks can be mitigated — before going forward,” concludes the report’s researchers.

They said that during their investigation, they used a simple digital camera to zoom in on a computer screen at an athletic event and observed officials type passwords while spectators were already assembled in the stands.

The research team advised sports organizers to have a backup for every digital device used at an event, with human oversight to verify digital technology used in competition produces the correct result.

Read the full report