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Cybersecurity at the Paris 2024 Olympics: A Digital Torch

June 2024 by Noémie Kurta, CTI analyst at Synetis

In July, the Paris 2024 Olympics will attract millions of spectators and athletes from around the globe. To ensure everyone’s safety, the organizers have deployed two innovative technologies: QR Codes and Algorithmic Video Surveillance (AVS). However, these technologies present significant cybersecurity risks.

QR Codes : a handy tool with multiple risks
Since their return in 2020, QR Codes have become a daily tool for millions of people. At the Paris 2024 Olympics, they will allow spectators to navigate Paris and access certain areas of the city. However, each scanned QR Code can serve as an entry point for a cyberattack or data theft. The risks associated with QR codes for the 2024 Olympics differ from those typically linked to public QR codes. The system implemented by the Police Prefecture uses personalized and secure QR codes integrated into the official Olympics app. These codes are linked to users’ identities and their access levels in a central database.
But, risks remain. Malicious individuals could attempt to falsify these QR codes to gain illegal access to Olympic sites. Moreover, although the system is designed to be secure, vigilance is required against attempts to hack the central database or the official app. It is important to note that these QR codes will not be scanned by users themselves but by Olympic security personnel using specific readers. This significantly reduces the traditional risks associated with malicious QR codes redirecting to dangerous websites or injecting malware into personal devices.

Algorithmic Video Surveillance : a technology under scrutiny
Algorithmic Video Surveillance (AVS) is deployed through 118 cameras to recognize behaviors requiring quick law enforcement intervention, such as assaults, brawls, thefts, or suspicious crowd movements. Although this technology is not used for facial recognition, it remains vulnerable to hackers, hacktivists, and other malicious actors. Exploitation flaws can allow hackers to access video streams or sensitive data. A breach in the AVS could manipulate or disable its features, slowing down real responses to incidents.

During Taylor Swift’s concert at Paris La Défense Arena in May 2024, an AVS experiment was conducted to evaluate this technology for the 2024 Olympics. Deployed in the Nanterre Préfecture and La Défense Grande Arche metro and RER stations, AVS aimed to detect suspicious behaviors such as intrusions into restricted areas, abnormal crowd movements, and abandoned luggage. Using the Cityvision system, images were analyzed in real-time by AI to alert RATP agents. Although detailed results of this experiment have not yet been published, the recordings will be retained for twelve months for in-depth analysis.

Protecting the 2024 olympics : a priority
The cybersecurity implications are considerable. QR Codes and AVS can be used as entry points for cyberattacks, data theft, and privacy violations. The organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympics must take measures to secure these technologies and protect athletes’ and spectators’ data. Cybersecurity must be integrated from the design stage of the systems used for this global event.

Cybersecurity is a priority for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Protecting spectators’ data and ensuring everyone’s safety during the event is crucial for the smooth running of the games. Efforts in awareness and communication on good cybersecurity practices, which can be deployed during the event, will help strengthen protection against potential threats.

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