February 17, 2022 | Bob Riley

Go for gold, and safety: Cybersecurity lessons from the Olympics

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Bob Riley, Senior Product Manager of Network and Security Service Portfolios

Bob Riley

Bob Riley is a Senior Product Manager in Windstream Enterprise’s network and security service portfolios. Within this role, Bob provides leadership and life cycle management for enterprise security and compliance solutions. He joined the organization in 2020 and has more than 20 years of product development, management and marketing experience in the Telecom industry.
Summary: Nothing is off limits when it comes to the Olympic Games. What can organizations learn from this high-profile event about keeping their systems, applications and people secure?

The ongoing 2022 Olympic Winter Games consist of representatives from 91 countries gathered in Beijing and billions of spectators tuned in from all over the world. The games are the gold standard, so to speak, showcasing athletes and their endless dedication, endurance and drive to be the best at what they do.

However, one common antagonist to all athletes, coaches, teams and countries skulks in the shadows. It’s the same threat that plagues organizations, employees and consumers all around the world. We’re talking about cybercriminals.

Olympic organizers have faced cyberattacks for years. London dealt with IT problems in 2012, reporting 212 million attempted cyberattacks. More recently, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics saw more than double that number, with 450 million attacks.

More dramatic attacks can be recounted more recently in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. According to WIRED, hackers launched an attack during the opening ceremonies, “shutting down every domain controller in the Seoul data centers, the servers that formed the backbone of the Olympics’ IT infrastructure.”

It was documented as the most deceptive hack in history, but the Pyeongchang organizing committee had prepared for it. The Olympic cybersecurity advisory group had met 20 times since 2015, simulating disasters varying from cyberattacks and fires to earthquakes. It’s a practice that Tokyo and Beijing prepared for, as well as athletes, who were concerned for their own personal cybersecurity. As cyberthreats continue to increase in volume and complexity with each passing year, organizations must evolve their methods to security to avoid falling into a reactive approach.

Passing the torch

Organizations need to consider the right precautions that will help them prepare for cyberattacks, especially during big events like the Olympics. Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Think small. Ensure you have simple best practices in place, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) that requires two or more verification factors in order for employees to gain access to company resources.
  2. Think big. Guarantee critical assets are segmented off from other network elements to reduce the attack surface area.
  3. Practice makes perfect. Conduct exercises and drills to understand how to respond and recover from an attack. Teach employees not to fall for sensational or shocking headlines, and to always think before they click.
  4. Establish lines of communication. Make it easy for all entities affected by an attack to share information across organization lines to find a solution faster.
  5. Level up. Ask yourself, how outdated is our IT infrastructure? Explore the most advanced technology that can give you an edge up from the competition (cybercriminals). For example, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a cloud-delivered framework that couples advanced network and security functions for optimal network protection.
  6. Be a team player. Find a trusted partner through a fully managed network security solution that can offer the resources to minimize network threats and maximize uptime. You don’t have to do it alone!


Key takeaway: Cybercriminals often use worldwide events, like the Olympics or key holidays, to catch businesses and individuals off guard. Long after the Olympic torch burns out, turn to this useful advice to stay ahead of cybercriminals.
Senior Product Manager

Bob Riley

Bob Riley is a Senior Product Manager in Windstream Enterprise’s network and security service portfolios. Within this role, Bob provides leadership and life cycle management for enterprise security and compliance solutions. He joined the organization in 2020 and has more than 20 years of product development, management and marketing experience in the Telecom industry.