Japan emphasizes Olympics cybersecurity, condemns 'malicious' hacks

Ami Miyazaki and Jack Tarrant, Reuters

Posted at Oct 20 2020 03:52 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2020 05:18 PM

The giant Olympic rings, which are being temporarily removed for maintenance, are seen behind Japan's national flag, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan August 6, 2020. File Photo. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters.


TOKYO - Japan said on Tuesday it would emphasize cybersecurity around the Tokyo Olympics and condemned "malicious cyberattacks" after Britain and the United States called out Russian military intelligence for trying to disrupt next year's Games.

Olympics organizers reported no significant impact on their operations for the Games, which were originally set for this year but postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain and the United States on Monday condemned what they said were a series of malicious cyberattacks orchestrated by Russian military intelligence, including attempts to disrupt the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato declined to give details but said Japan would make every effort to protect the Games from possible hacking attempts.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to malicious cyberattacks that threaten democracy," Kato told a news conference, adding that Japan was gathering and analysing information and in close contact with Britain and the United States.

"The Olympics are a major international event that attract attention, and cybersecurity measures are extremely important."

British officials said on Monday the hackers from Russia's GRU military intelligence agency had also conducted "cyber reconnaissance" operations against Tokyo Games organizers.

They declined to give specific details about the latest attacks or say whether they were successful but said they had targeted Games organizers, logistics suppliers and sponsors.

The organizing committee said in a statement they had already made extensive cybersecurity preparations and that there had been little disruption to its platforms.

"While we have constantly monitored various types of cyberattack on the digital platforms owned by Tokyo 2020, no significant impact has been observed in our operations," spokesman Masa Takaya said.

A representative for Games sponsor Toyota Motor Corp declined to comment.

A string of hacking attempts have been conducted against international sporting organisations which Western officials and cybersecurity experts say were orchestrated by Russia since its doping scandal erupted five years ago.

Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Russia was banned from the world's top sporting events for four years in December over widespread doping offences, including the Tokyo Games.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman said cybersecurity was one of their priorities.

"The IOC and the Organising Committees of the Olympic Games have identified cyber security as a priority area and invest a lot to offer the Olympic Games the best cyber security environment possible," the spokesman told Reuters in an email.

"Given the nature of the topic, we do not divulge those measures." 

(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Peter Rutherford )