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Cyber attack threat to Olympics

Security experts have revealed that they received suggestions of a cyber attack targeted at the opening ceremony of last summer's Olympic Games.

Oliver Hoare, head of cyber security for the Games, told the BBC he received a phone call from government listening post GCHQ on the day of the opening ceremony.

There were concerns that the lights in the Olympic stadium could have been turned off during the ceremony. The threat failed to materialise and the ceremony went off without a hitch, but security officials revealed that they had put extensive precautions in place to withstand such an attack.

"There was a suggestion that there was a credible attack on the electricity infrastructure supporting the Games," Mr Hoare told the BBC. "And the first reaction to that is, 'Goodness, you know, let's make a strong cup of coffee and get into the office'."

Mr Hoare said that extensive testing had taken place to mitigate a wide range of attacks, including the exact scenario that raised concerns on the first day.

He said: "We'd tested no less than five times the possibility of an attack, a cyber attack, on the electricity infrastructure. In a sense I think we felt pretty well prepared, but there's always an amount of concern, particularly when you've only got eight or nine hours before the opening ceremony."

Government, Olympic organiser Locog and service providers such as BT were all part of a team that responded to such threats.

The primary response to the threat came from the Olympic Cyber Co-ordination Team (OCCT), based at MI5 headquarters in Thames House. This involved assessing how credible the threat of attack might be, a process which took place while officials put in place a contingency plan in case the attack was carried out.

"The clock was absolutely ticking," Mr Hoare told the BBC. "We effectively switched to manual, or had the facility to switch to manual. It's a very crude way of describing it, but effectively we had lots of technicians stationed at various points."

He said that so much resilience in terms of power had been put into place so that "if all the lights went out in east London you could guarantee that the Olympic Stadium would still be burning brightly".

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