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2024 Olympics: can data from stolen computers be exploited?

“The Olympic Games are going to be a fantastic event, but also a formidable target,” Vincent Strubel, the director general of Anssi, the national information systems security agency, warned last Tuesday on Franceinfo.

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2024 Olympics: can data from stolen computers be exploited?

“The Olympic Games are going to be a fantastic event, but also a formidable target,” Vincent Strubel, the director general of Anssi, the national information systems security agency, warned last Tuesday on Franceinfo. Faced with the risks of “very targeted attacks”, the head of French cyber defense assured that all those involved in the Games were “rather well prepared”. Ten hours later, the unthinkable - or rather the dreaded - happened: the theft of a computer and two USB keys belonging to a Paris town hall agent likely to have access to "sensitive data" on the securing the international event. Three days later, do it again. A second computer, this time from the Avicenne hospital in Bobigny, was stolen. Within it, “confidential documents” including access and circulation plans planned for the Olympic Games.

Two flights in quick succession on a relatively minimal scale, according to Paris City Hall and the Games Organizing Committee (Cojo). This Tuesday, Tony Estanguet, the president of Cojo, told Franceinter that sensitive information was “well protected” and that no sensitive data had leaked. But the cyber risk remains. And is seemingly secure data really secure? Le Figaro looked into the question.

“As with almost all computers, there are probably security systems on those stolen,” begins Jérôme Delamarche, senior manager in cybersecurity and data protection at Sia Partners. Before counterbalancing: “However, all the barriers that separate the thief from the data can be crossed, modulo the time and means devoted to it.” As for the data stored on USB keys, “it’s even simpler to use them,” smiles the specialist. No protection is infallible, and all cryptographic mechanisms, no matter how complex, can be forced.

Even more so in the present cases. “If the stolen computers had been those of large multinationals, the risk of seeing the data read would have been less. The protection systems used by these behemoths are very robust. Those of the City of Paris on the other hand…” notes the expert. “International circumstances and current tensions with Russia pose a real cyber risk to the Olympic Games,” recalls Jérôme Delamarche, “and if these thefts are targeted as one might presume, then the perpetrators surely have the means to achieve their ambitions.”

It is only a matter of time between the computers being stolen and their files potentially being read. And the degree of security of the machines is therefore in reality only a more or less long duration of confidentiality. Precious hours used by the IT services of the City of Paris to secure the computer remotely. “All the necessary resets have been carried out in order to cut off all access to the City's computer system,” reassures the town hall in a press release. Regarding the hospital computer, nothing is certain. Tony Estanguet acknowledging this morning that he does not yet have “all the confirmation” of the presence or not of sensitive data.

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