How US Security Services Will Protect the Winter Olympics


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When the world’s consideration swings to South Korea on February 9, the spectators and individuals shall be fascinated by greater than gold medals. The saber-rattling between the neighboring Koreas makes for an ominous backdrop to the XXIII Olympic Winter Video games, a pressure that seeing the nations’ athletes march below the identical flag and skate on the identical ice can’t fairly erase.

The Korean scenario is exclusive, however all fashionable Olympics face threats, together with terrorism and the personal-security risks that include massive worldwide crowds. There are decidedly fashionable dangers to handle, as effectively. Chief amongst them: drones and computer systems. “What’s completely different now from previous Olympics is elevated use of unmanned methods and the cyber area to stage assaults,” says safety analyst Peter Singer. “The attacker doesn’t even must be onsite. They’ll do it from afar.”

As an illustration, terrorists might use unmanned air or floor automobiles to ship chemical brokers or explosives, Singer stated. Distant hackers might stage denial-of-service assaults on networks supporting the video games or steal vacationers’ bank card information. They could attempt to sabotage the Video games by altering drug check information, interfering with scoring methods, or doxing rivals by releasing personal info to embarrass or distract them earlier than an enormous occasion. There are limitless avenues that lone wolfs, terrorist teams, legal organizations, or state brokers can take to attain an equally broad vary of nefarious objectives.

For that reason, secreted in that tension-filled background would be the safety forces of dozens of nations, led by the South Korean authorities’s personal key companies, all working to profit from a collective experience that not often unifies. Allied nations seek the advice of readily with one another throughout planning and amid the almost two weeks of occasions, and even sometimes adversarial nations usually tend to share info on the Video games.

South Korea’s safety forces will run the present, however it’s no shock america can have one of many largest forces on the Video games. That is the place the Diplomatic Safety Service will get its flip to shine. The State Division’s safety and law-enforcement company is charged with defending embassies and US residents overseas, and can have 100 brokers within the nation, plus dozens of further personnel. They’ll be working in assist of america Olympic Committee’s personal safety workplace and alongside smaller groups from different American companies that comprise the State Division’s Worldwide Safety Occasion Group. Amongst them: the FBI and the Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company, which focuses on satellite tv for pc information evaluation and world risk monitoring. In whole, the US is sending 240 athletes and 200 safety personnel to Korea. And identical to these athletes, these are specialised rivals who spend a lot of their lives coaching for occasions like this all-important two-week stretch on the worldwide stage.

Whereas much less recognized than the equally structured Secret Service, the Diplomatic Safety Service isn’t any wannabe. It has 2,000 brokers and 45,000 personnel stationed in additional than 170 nations. Along with routinely contributing to Olympic safety, it does the identical for the FIFA World Cup, and it even has its personal safety Tremendous Bowl: the annual United Nations Common Meeting in New York Metropolis. Months or years earlier than an occasion just like the Olympics, it inserts devoted brokers to the host nation to assist coordinate. Right here, the sturdy ties between the US and South Korea show useful. So does Korea’s tech savviness—the house of Samsung and LG isn’t any stranger to cybersecurity.

“We’re very assured in South Korea’s capabilities in staging the video games,” stated Rick Colón, director of the Workplace of Safety on the DSS. “We’ve been working very shut collectively from the start, and it’s clear that the South Korean authorities has developed a complete safety plan for the Winter Olympics, in addition to for the Paralympics that may observe.”

Certainly, the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Video games (POCOG) features a sturdy roster of authorities: the Korean Nationwide Police Company, the Nationwide Intelligence Service, the Presidential Safety Service, and the nation’s navy.

Items in Place

The DSS began prepping for these Video games almost two years in the past, when it despatched two brokers to Seoul, understanding of the American embassy there. Their early efforts centered on safety inspections on the varied venues, establishing protocols for speaking with different companies, contingency planning, and coordinating the position of the DSS brokers in the course of the Video games.

The remaining brokers who will converge on South Korea have been chosen largely for his or her expertise with main occasions or the area particularly, any Korean language expertise, and different components. They’ll obtain refreshers in first help and the communication methods arrange for the Olympics, together with further coaching particular to all of the potential situations that may play out. The DSS will station greater than 20 brokers (dubbed discipline liaison officers) at every of the 2 venue areas—the PyeongChang mountain cluster, which can host the opening and shutting ceremonies and the snowboarding, snowboarding, and sliding occasions (bobsleigh, luge, skeleton); and the Gangneung cluster on the coast, for skating, hockey, and curling.

“There shall be brokers assigned to every venue, monitoring particular groups competing or training at these areas,” says Craig Reistad, the company’s Olympic safety coordinator. “Their function is to be on the bottom to function eyes and ears on the venues. If there are any anomalies—something out of the atypical—they’ll know how you can get the group out of hazard and the place to maneuver them.”

In Seoul (two to a few hours by prepare from these venues), dozens of further brokers shall be stationed at a joint operations middle, to speak with the brokers on the venues, the opposite safety companies, and native police, hearth, and navy companies. Different DSS brokers will work out of South Korea’s personal command middle. And a pair of situational consciousness groups shall be stationed at every cluster, monitoring the areas outdoors the venues for potential issues. Meaning typically mundane work: confirming street is evident for a VIP’s arrival, or verifying that any street accidents are certainly mishaps, not mischief. That is along with persistent vigilance to all the opposite potential threats that may seem first outdoors the venues.

Although it’s circuitously concerned within the safety of the Video games, there shall be one other group saved on digital speed-dial all through: US Pacific Command (PACOM), the Division of Protection command that has maintained a presence in South Korea since 1957, after the Korean Struggle. That presence manifests in US Forces Korea, which maintains greater than 30,000 troops within the nation that may be mobilized in minutes ought to any worst-case-scenario hassle come up.

Sharing Is Caring

In the course of the Video games themselves, the lead DSS personnel, together with reps from different companies, as wanted, will temporary the staffs every morning about any incidents, native police exercise, and different notable intelligence reviews, and the host nation will conduct each day intelligence updates. The DSS will itself report again each day to the State Division and talk with the Abroad Safety Advisory Council, a voluntary group of US firms and entities that function abroad and which can be concerned within the Video games. (NBC, for example, can have 2,000 staff distributed between the 2 clusters, whereas main sponors like Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, and GE will ship their very own delegations.) Once more, it’s all about communication. “The principle energy we convey is info sharing,” Reistad says. “It doesn’t assist any of us to remain compartmentalized over right here.”

The character of the data change varies extensively. “The joint operations middle works in live performance with the liaison efforts and is plugged into the host authorities’s safety construction,” says Thomas Hastings, a safety marketing consultant previously with the State Division and the FBI, who oversaw the State Division’s counterterrorism efforts in the course of the 2000 and 1996 Summer season Video games. “Shared reviews might be as severe as a reputable and particular terrorist risk to an Olympic occasion, venue, or athletes to as routine as the important thing occasions occurring in the course of the subsequent shift, how the native and worldwide media is masking the occasions, and many others. Cyber threats would even be mentioned as would social media exercise, together with amongst conventional adversaries and what they could be posting on social media.”

The taking part companies will complement their information-gathering ways with some swanky tech, possible together with facial recognition methods, surveillance blimps, good safety cameras programmed to detect uncommon conduct, and sensors to detect chemical or organic assaults. The DSS wouldn’t verify its technological assets, however the Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company, which interprets satellite tv for pc information and imagery acquired from the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace to assist fight and intelligence operations, says on its web site that for the 2016 Summer season Video games in Rio, it constructed detailed interactive digital maps.

Even at floor degree, the DSS faucets each benefit, together with new cellular gadgets that “transmit situational consciousness of their brokers and points-of-interest,” even in low-bandwidth conditions. “We do attempt to make use of as a lot know-how as potential,” Colón stated. “It’s an enormous enabler, along with our personnel. We use a number of communication applied sciences with the intention to make it as fluid as potential.”


Latest indicators of collaboration between North and South Korea are encouraging, however they hardly imply all’s effectively going into the Video games. The DSS wouldn’t expose operational particulars referring to its contingency planning, besides to say that it’ll conduct simulations on the joint operations middle earlier than the opening ceremony, masking a wide range of situations.

When it comes to essentially the most fashionable panoply of threats, analyst Singer says there are a lot of ways the safety forces current may use to reply them. “Defenses towards robotic aerial assaults, for example, will first contain creating an airspace ban across the venues, then surveillance and detection applied sciences to trace potential drones,” says Singer, the safety analyst. “They’ll have applied sciences to shoot it down or disable it by means of jamming—hacking into it to hijack or block it, or simply overwhelm it electronically.”

On the cyber entrance, the countermeasures will primarily be risk intelligence, which hinges on—you guessed it—sharing info with different companies. “Merely monitoring that may add to the resilience towards an assault,” Singer says. “Good risk intelligence is not only saying that you just see some kind of malware, however studying that this group or that group is plotting one thing. If a risk is detected, understanding that teams used sure strategies in different conditions helps establish them as suspects in a present one.”

Lastly, there are the potential main catastrophes—terrorist assaults, a nuclear strike, or a pure catastrophe. These are thought out too. “There’s at all times a plan,” Reistad stated. “Sure, we have a look at the worst-case situations. We sit down collectively and conduct tabletop workout routines and worst-case planning.”

Finally, the purpose in South Korea is easy: maintain the drama on the snow and on the ice. And nevertheless the Video games go, the DSS and the remainder of the world’s safety companies shall be taking notes and honing their method for the following main occasion in a world the place geopolitical tensions present no indicators of calming.

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