Olympic Games: Is Paris Ready for the “Unprecedented” Wave of Cyber Attacks?

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In just two months athletes and tourists from hundreds of countries will descend on Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics. For security teams working in this large-scale event, this only means one thing: cyber attacks are a top priority and must be anticipated and shut down.

Unlike almost all Olympic events in the past, today’s biggest sporting event has a massive digital attack surface that attracts countless cybercriminal organizations — each with its own agenda. The question remains. Is Paris ready?

Key Takeaways

  • Paris Olympics will face a wider range of cyberattacks than ever before, including ransomware, disruption of critical infrastructure, nation-state attacks, and social media manipulation.
  • For the first time, AI will be used on both sides of cyber defense.  Paris is using AI to identify disinformation campaigns, while attackers may use AI-generated deepfakes to spread misinformation.
  • Malicious actors are already spreading fake news online to try to damage France’s reputation and disrupt the Olympics. These campaigns include calls to boycott the games and claims of discrimination and corruption.
  • Security experts expect attackers to launch complex, multi-stage attacks to try to gain access to critical systems.

Elite ANSSI Olympic Security Teams Poised for Operation

Earlier this month, the head of France’s national cybersecurity agency (ANSSI) told the press that the cyber threat level facing the Olympics is “unprecedented”.

“There will be cyberattacks during the Games and the Paralympics. Some won’t be serious. Some will be serious but won’t have an impact on the Games. And perhaps there will be some that are serious and liable to have an impact on the Games.”

The agency is expecting all types of threats, from lone hacktivists to ransomware attacks and even nation-state-supported hackers — with Russia, China, and the Middle East taking high priority due to ongoing military conflicts and geopolitical tensions.

But ANSSI security teams — dubbed “Cyberwarriors” by the European press — are not only prepared, but they have also gone through significant training operations in cooperation with the various government departments, to reinforce systems for monitoring, alerting, and handling IT security incidents.

The task these “Cyberwarriors” have is considered so sensitive, critical, and classified that few details of their preparation, technologies, or strategies are known. To ensure maximum security, the location of the elite ANSSI Olympic cybersecurity team is being kept secret. Their command center, or hub, is hidden from public knowledge.


The group not only expects attacks on targets linked to the Olympic Games but also cyber attacks on essential infrastructure, such as communications, transport networks, energy, supply chains, and water and sanitation.

Lisa McStay, Chief Operating Officer at Continuity2, a continuity software provider, spoke to Techopedia about the training and capabilities of the Olympics security team.

“The type of training France is using is on the right path, by focusing on the preparation stages and also learning valuable lessons from the past, France has a solid approach. Although not specifically stated, they will also be focusing on watching cyber gangs-criminals as the Games get closer.”

How Secure is the Olympics Game Digital Attack Surface?

Threat experts from Outpost24 — a cyber risk management company — recently released a detailed analysis of the digital attack surface analysis of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games online infrastructure.

Researchers found that the expanding digital attack surface of the Olympics game was “not quite a gold medal, but certainly a silver”.

Stijn Vande Casteele, CSO of Outpost24, spoke about the overall results of their threat analysis in a press release.

“While we found several attack surface risks to analyze, it would be fair to say the overall cybersecurity posture of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was good. A few years ago, we analyzed the attack surface of FIFA’s 2018 Russia World Cup, which had an alarming number of outdated hosts and potential entry points into their infrastructure.”

Some notable risks, vulnerabilities, and threats that Outpost24 found include open ports risks, 31 domains (5.8%) with invalid SSL and 86 domains (16%) with no SSL at all, and several domain squatting threats — registering domains with the intent to fraudulently profit from an organization’s trademark.

Outpost24 also detailed cookie consent violations, 404s and empty pages, outdated software, and technologies, and leaked credentials (one set stolen by LUMMAC2 malware) as negative findings.

Victo Acin, Head of Threat Intelligence Operations at Outpost24, spoke to Techopedia about some possible threat scenarios that could play out in Paris soon.

“Due to the nature of the Olympic games they will most likely draw attention from all kinds of threat actors; from regular cybercriminals looking for a way to extort money from the organization or its athletes through a ransomware attack or data leakage, to nation-state sponsored actors looking to disrupt the games or provide an edge to their country in any of the competitions.”

First Olympic Games in History to Face AI Threats

Disruptive ransomware, attacks on critical infrastructure, nation-state-supported gangs, high-level political hacktivists, and any digital incident connected to terrorism are at the top of the list for security experts working in the Olympics cyber defense teams.

However, this year, thanks to the rise in cybercriminal misinformation and disinformation campaigns, deepfakes, and social media manipulation, artificial intelligence cyber attacks and AI security will take to the Olympic stage for the first time in history.

On May 23, press reported that France partnered with a top AI-driven risk intelligence company to enhance cybersecurity measures for the Olympics. Blackbird.AI — AI-based narrative intelligence platform Constellation — is at the center of the news.

The Constellation platform will allow Olympic security teams to efficiently identify and analyze narratives that spark from disinformation or fake news while providing clarity and critical support for rapid data-driven decision-making.

Sarah Boutboul, Intelligence Analyst at Blackbird.AI, spoke to Techopedia about Olympics threats and worst-case scenarios.

“In addition to cyber and terrorist attacks, the French government and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) should expect and anticipate large-scale and high-reach narrative attacks as the start of the Olympics draws closer.”

Boutboul explained that these narratives will aim to damage France’s reputation and its ability to host this world-renowned event — primarily triggered, disseminated, and amplified by foreign malign actors.

The Olympic Fake News and Misinformation Campaigns Already in Play

Boutboul from BlackBird shared with Techopedia some of the most shocking narratives they have already identified as targeting France and the IOC. BlackBird.ai’s investigation focused on “online harmful discussions calling for a boycott of the Olympics in June and July 2023”.

Boutboul said that the narrative “Boycott Paris 2024” paints a picture of France as a cruel and discriminatory place. This narrative pushed online utilizes images of previous riots in Paris, and includes several hashtags such as #Paris2024 and #BoycottParis24.

The use of hashtags reveals a clear motive to propagate and amplify claims through social media. Additionally, the “Boycott Paris 2024” narrative also attempts to present French citizens as “victims of growing Islamophobia, discriminatory aggressions as well as a fascist drift driven by the government”. The goal of this narrative is to justify the alleged need to boycott the upcoming Olympic Games.

Boutboul added that this narrative also leveraged the recent murder of Nahel Merzouk — a French 17-year-old of Moroccan and Algerian descent who was killed by a police officer in June 2023 — as well as the large-scale violent demonstrations that followed his death.

“Meanwhile, other posts circulated links to online petitions to relocate the event. They asserted that the values of equality and diversity promoted by the Olympics are incompatible with those of France, allegedly persecuting minority groups.”

Another narrative Constellation found was the “Boycott Paris 2024/exclude Russia and Belarus from the competition”. This campaign used images of the Ukraine-Russian war.

Tom Cruise Deep Fake and Other Fake Narratives

BlackBird also identified a narrative pushed by a Tom Cruise AI-generated deep fake where the impersonated actors claim the International Olympic Committee is made up of corrupt officials ruining the Olympics.

Additionally, fake news that Lego and Spotify pulled out as Olympic sponsors — when they were never sponsors of the event, claims of tourists canceling bookings for the Olympics due to Macron’s support for Ukraine, and fake news that French women need to give birth before the Olympics to free up hospital beds, are other examples of dangerous narratives in play.

“The government also anticipates foreign information manipulation and interference – disinformation campaigns by state-affiliated malicious actors — but a few additional measures could significantly improve the country’s preparedness against information operations,” Boutboul told Techopedia.

“It is also essential for France to fill the narrative gap in the field of cyber security: cyber attacks can no longer be analyzed from the simplistic angle of data extraction.”

Paris-Based Incident Response Expert Talks Olympic Security

Pierre-Antoine Failly-Crawford, a senior incident response team leader based in the Paris metropolitan area for Varonis, an automated data security posture management (DSPM) provider, spoke to Techopedia from Paris.

Failly-Crawford said that hacktivist attacks often include denial of service against transportation capabilities, event sites, streaming services, and city services as well as digital data theft from local sites dedicated to hosting events and activities around major events.

“We can also expect geopolitical attacks intended to destroy credibility and destabilize the host country to weaken it on the international stage. Many times, geopolitical attacks involve using fake websites and bots on social networks to generate fake news relaying physical incidents, hacks, and data breaches.”

Failly-Crawford added that multi-staged and indirect attacks are expected.

“The Olympics is a perfect opportunity for threat actors to attempt to gain access to as many systems as possible.”

The Bottom Line

When and if the Paris cyber attacks hit, they can cause confusion and fear among staff, Olympic participants, and society. These could be augmented and worsened as fake narratives or manipulated information emerge. False alerts could also distract security teams while attackers gain ground.

Security teams will have to perform at all levels, from terrorism-related threats to social media and critical infrastructure, and on behalf of athletes and businesses.

In the big global stage of the Olympic Games, everything is fair play for cybercriminals.


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Ray Fernandez
Senior Technology Journalist
Ray Fernandez
Senior Technology Journalist

Ray is an independent journalist with 15 years of experience, focusing on the intersection of technology with various aspects of life and society. He joined Techopedia in 2023 after publishing in numerous media, including Microsoft, TechRepublic, Moonlock, Hackermoon, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and ServerWatch. He holds a degree in Journalism from Oxford Distance Learning and two specializations from FUNIBER in Environmental Science and Oceanography. When Ray is not working, you can find him making music, playing sports, and traveling with his wife and three kids.