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Winter Olympics 2018 Threatened By Singapore-Based Hackers Targeting Ice Hockey Groups

Mascots for PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games stand in Seoul, South Korea.

As South Korea readies for the 2018 Winter Olympics, computer hackers have already attempted cyber attacks on ice hockey groups in trying to access passwords and financial information, according to a report from computer security company McAfee on Saturday.

The threat came from a Singapore IP address, according to McAfee analysts, who said that a malicious Word document titled “Organized by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Pyeongchang Winter Olympics” (translated from Korean) was sent to an email address intended for personnel affiliated with ice hockey.

Hackers made the threat on December 29, 2017, but analysts said that they expected further cyber attacks on the Winter Olympics. “Attackers are using steganography—hidden code—to spread malware to organizations involved in next month’s #WinterOlympics,” the computer security company tweeted on Saturday.

South Korea has had diplomatic relations with Singapore for over 40 years, and the report did not say that the threat came from a government source. For the first time ever, an athlete from Singapore will be competing in the Winter Olympic games. Cheyenne Goh will compete in the speed skating event.

Analysts did not identify who sent the email but said that they tried to conceal their identity by sending the malign file from an address from South Korea’s National Counter-Terrorism Center and used the Korean language to make the email seem more legitimate.

The title of the email alerted security specialists that it was fake.

“The spoofed source of this email suggests the message is legitimate and increases the chances that victims will treat it as such,” the report said.

The document sent by the hackers used an implant embedded in the document that would have given them access to the Winter Olympics server, letting the attackers “execute commands on the victim’s machine and to install additional malware.”

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will begin on Friday, February 9, potentially leaving the event open to hackers for a little over a month. Other hackers made attempts to attack the Winter Olympics as early as December 22, 2017, according to McAfee.

South Korea will discuss allowing athletes from rogue neighbor North Korea on Tuesday. The talks will be the first discussion between North and South Korea in two years and are set to take place amid growing nuclear weapons threats between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States president Donald Trump.

U.S. officials concerned with the North Korean nuclear threat, including Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis, say that the two countries will not be discussing security issues on Tuesday, just the nation’s participation in the 2018 games.

H/T: News Week

Written by Leigh Brown

Leigh Brown is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Leigh is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.

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