Met Police start to combat 2012 Olympics cybercrime


The Metropolitan Police is setting up two specialist units dedicated to tackling cybercrime at the 2012 London Olympics.

Detective chief superintendent Nigel Mawer said the high-profile sporting showpiece represents a "phenomenally good opportunity" for cyber criminals, one that the police are already starting to tackle.

One of the teams will be tasked with combating Olympics-related e-crime activity, such as fraud and hacking, while the other will be dedicated almost exclusively to the prevention of ticketing fraud.

London's police force has received additional Government funding to deal with online security threats ahead of the Olympics, with Mawer saying there was no doubt that the Olympics would be a massive target for cyber-criminals.

"There is significant intelligence from other events that it is highly likely organised criminals will target the Olympics," Mawer said. "That is why we have got funding and why we are looking to provide a response. We want to protect the reputation of the UK by putting in pro-active, preventative measures aimed at this type of issue and other organised crime attacks on the Olympics."

The creation of the two teams falls under a wider project known as Operation Podium, which is tasked with protect the Olympics project from fraud.

The e-crime team, which is being led by detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie, has already started looking into websites suspected of being the platform for potential phishing attacks, and is currently on a recruitment drive to ramp up its operations.

"We're looking at precursor crime-enabler websites," McMurdie said. "We're working with registrars to put in place preventative measures to stop those sites being registered."

The Olympic computer systems will be protected by their supplier, Atos Origin, and the e-crime team will work together with Atos to keep the systems as well protected as possible.

Similar large-scale sporting events have been hit by cyber attacks in the past, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, while events like Wimbledon are plagued by ticket fraudsters.

In April last year, Labour MP David Blunkett warned that serious action needed to be taken quickly to protect the Games from serious cyber attacks.

To that end, the police has asked printing businesses to sign up to a code of conduct aimed at heading off ever-more-sophisticated ticket-printing rackets ahead of the Olympics.

"The area of vulnerability will be ticketing," predicted detective chief inspector Nick Downing, who heads up the ticketing team, "whether that is counterfeiting tickets or false ticket websites. It is people looking to interfere with the Olympic economy."

Downing said fraudulent tickets were already being sold for the 2012 Games, even though official tickets aren't yet available. "Any website that sets itself up advertising tickets for the Olympics at the moment is doing so illegally," he said.