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20th of February 2018

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Cybersecurity researchers say Olympics hacker aimed to embarrass

Ya burnt.Ya burnt.Image: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images2017%2f09%2f18%2f2b%2fjackbw5.32076By Jack Morse2018-02-12 22:14:54 UTC

The hot new trend in Winter Olympics fashion? Making the host country look like a chump. 

Following reports that Olympic organizers had their servers hacked during the opening ceremony, security researchers have dug into the malware responsible and come to an interesting conclusion: Embarrassment was the name of the game. 

According to Talos, "Cisco's industry-leading threat intelligence team," the attack that knocked Olympic press center TVs offline and forced the temporary shutdown of the Pyeongchang 2018 website was tailored to be destructive. 

In other words, unlike the ransomware that swept the globe last year, there was no clear financial motive. And it doesn't look like the attackers were after information, either. 

"The purpose of this malware is to perform destruction of the host, leave the computer system offline, and wipe remote data," explained report authors Warren Mercer and Paul Rascagneres. "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."

The researchers at Talos dubbed the malware "Olympic Destroyer," just in case anyone was unclear about their conclusions. 

Deleting that data.

Deleting that data.

Image: Talos

Importantly, there is no foolproof way to know with 100 percent certainty what motivated the hackers. However, a plot to muck things up isn't that farfetched. After all, there is at least one powerful actor that could conceivably have such a motive. 

Russia was banned from officially competing in this year's Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, and hasn't taken that reality well. The Washington Post reported today that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed the reason for the ban — state-sponsored doping — was invented by the United States because the U.S. “can’t beat us fairly.”

So, yeah, clearly someone is upset — and Russia has been known to wield its powerful hacking skills in a variety of unsavory ways. 

Does that mean Russia perpetrated the hack? At this point, it's too early to say. However, if an attack during the opening ceremony is any indication of what's to come, we may just end up with plenty more opportunities to find out. 

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