Shortly before the Pyeongchang opening ceremonies on Friday, televisions at the main press centre, wifi at the Olympic Stadium and the official website were taken down.
It is well known that big events attract the attention of hackers. The biggest event right now is the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and it looks like the hackers have arrived. Shortly before the opening ceremonies on Friday, televisions at the main press centre, wifi at the Olympic Stadium and the official website were taken down. All systems were restored by 8AM on the following Saturday, and although individuals were unable to print event tickets during the outage, the organizing committee described the event as affecting only “noncritical systems.” Given the high profile of the games, the rumor mill immediately began spreading whispers that the outage was the result of a cyberattack.
After restoring services and investigating the cause, Sunday evening Pyeongchang 2018 spokesperson Sung Baik-you issued an official statement confirming that the outage resulted from a cyber attack.
“There was a cyber-attack and the server was updated yesterday during the day and we have the cause of the problem”, Sung Baik-you said.
Leading up to the Olympic Games there was a lot of speculation whether North Korea would attempt to disrupt the games. Along with China and Russia, North Korean cyberwarfare teams are often suspected in large-scale attack such as these. In this case, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) is refusing to participate in any speculation as to the source of the attacks.
“We wouldn’t start giving you the details of an investigation before it has come to an end, particularly because it involves security which at these games is incredibly important. I am sure you appreciate we need to maintain the security of our systems,” said Mark Adams, head of communications for the IOC.
While the IOC and Pyeongchang spokespeople are being cautious about releasing details to focus on ensuring security and safety of the games, Cisco Talos has been forthcoming with technical details of the attack. While they haven’t pointed fingers at specific attackers, but in a Talos blog post on February 12, they have stated, “[samples identified] are not from adversaries looking for information from the games but instead they are aimed to disrupt the games.”
According to their research, there are many similarities between the Pyeongchang attack, which they are dubbing “Olympic Destroyer”, and earlier attacks such as BadRabbit and NotPetya. All of these attacks are focused on destruction and disruption of equipment not exfiltration of data or other, more subtle attacks. Using legitimate tools such as PsExec and WMI the attackers are specifically targeting the pyeongchang2018.com domain attempting to steal browser and system credentials to move laterally in the network and then wiping the victim computer to make it unusable.
While the source of the attacks is uncertain, the Cisco Talos blog post is clear in identifying motivation, “Disruption is the clear objective in this type of attack and it leaves us confident in thinking that the actors behind this were after embarrassment of the Olympic committee during the opening ceremony.”
About the author: Steve Biswanger has over 20 years experience in Information Security consulting, and is a frequent speaker on risk, ICS and IoT topics. He is currently Director of Information Security for Encana, a North American oil & gas company and sits on the Board of Directors for the (ISC)2 Alberta Chapter.
Pierluigi Paganini is member of the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) Threat Landscape Stakeholder Group and Cyber G7 Group, he is also a Security Evangelist, Security Analyst and Freelance Writer.
Editor-in-Chief at "Cyber Defense Magazine", Pierluigi is a cyber security expert with over 20 years experience in the field, he is Certified Ethical Hacker at EC Council in London. The passion for writing and a strong belief that security is founded on sharing and awareness led Pierluigi to find the security blog "Security Affairs" recently named a Top National Security Resource for US.
Pierluigi is a member of the "The Hacker News" team and he is a writer for some major publications in the field such as Cyber War Zone, ICTTF, Infosec Island, Infosec Institute, The Hacker News Magazine and for many other Security magazines.
Author of the Books "The Deep Dark Web" and “Digital Virtual Currency and Bitcoin”.