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How US Security Services Will Protect the Winter Olympics

When the world’s consideration swings to South Korea on February 9, the spectators and contributors might be excited about greater than gold medals. The saber-rattling between the neighboring Koreas makes for an ominous backdrop to the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, a rigidity that seeing the nations’ athletes march underneath the similar flag and skate on the similar 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 different now from past Olympics is increased use of unmanned systems and the cyber domain to stage attacks,” says safety analyst Peter Singer. “The attacker doesn’t even have to be onsite. They can do it from afar.”

For occasion, terrorists might use unmanned air or floor autos to ship chemical brokers or explosives, Singer mentioned. Remote hackers might stage denial-of-service assaults on networks supporting the video games or steal vacationers’ bank card knowledge. They would possibly attempt to sabotage the Games by altering drug take a look at knowledge, interfering with scoring methods, or doxing rivals by releasing personal data to embarrass or distract them earlier than a giant occasion. There are infinite avenues that lone wolfs, terrorist teams, prison organizations, or state brokers can take to attain an equally broad vary of nefarious targets.

For this cause, secreted in that tension-filled background might 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 hardly ever unifies. Allied nations seek the advice of readily with one another throughout planning and amid the practically two weeks of occasions, and even sometimes adversarial nations usually tend to share data at the Games.

South Korea’s safety forces will run the present, however it’s no shock the United States can have one among the largest forces at the Games. This is the place the Diplomatic Security Service will get its flip to shine. The State Department’s safety and law-enforcement company is charged with defending embassies and US residents overseas, and can have 100 brokers in the nation, plus dozens of extra personnel. They’ll be working in assist of the United States Olympic Committee’s personal safety workplace and alongside smaller groups from different American companies that comprise the State Department’s International Security Event Group. Among them: the FBI and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which focuses on satellite tv for pc knowledge evaluation and world menace monitoring. In complete, the US is sending 240 athletes and 200 safety personnel to Korea. And similar 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 world stage.

While much less identified than the equally structured Secret Service, the Diplomatic Security Service is not any wannabe. It has 2,000 brokers and 45,000 personnel stationed in additional than 170 nations. In addition to routinely contributing to Olympic safety, it does the similar for the FIFA World Cup, and it even has its personal safety Super Bowl: the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Months or years earlier than an occasion like the Olympics, it inserts devoted brokers to the host nation to assist coordinate. Here, the robust ties between the US and South Korea show useful. So does Korea’s tech savviness—the house of Samsung and LG is not any stranger to cybersecurity.

“We’re very confident in South Korea’s capabilities in staging the games,” mentioned Rick Colón, director of the Office of Protection at the DSS. “We’ve been working very close together from the beginning, and it’s clear that the South Korean government has developed a comprehensive security plan for the Winter Olympics, as well as for the Paralympics that will follow.”

Indeed, the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games (POCOG) features a sturdy roster of authorities: the Korean National Police Agency, the National Intelligence Service, the Presidential Security Service, and the nation’s army.

Pieces in Place

The DSS began prepping for these Games practically 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 at the varied venues, establishing protocols for speaking with different companies, contingency planning, and coordinating the placement of the DSS brokers throughout the Games.

The remaining brokers who will converge on South Korea had been chosen largely for his or her expertise with main occasions or the area specifically, any Korean language expertise, and different components. They will obtain refreshers in first help and the communication methods arrange for the Olympics, together with extra coaching particular to all the potential situations that may play out. The DSS will station greater than 20 brokers (dubbed area liaison officers) at every of the two 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 at the coast, for skating, hockey, and curling.

“There will be agents assigned to each venue, monitoring specific teams competing or practicing at those locations,” says Craig Reistad, the company’s Olympic safety coordinator. “Their role is to be on the ground to serve as eyes and ears at the venues. If there are any anomalies—anything out of the ordinary—they’ll know how to get the team out of danger and where to move them.”

In Seoul (two to 3 hours by practice from these venues), dozens of extra brokers might be stationed at a joint operations middle, to speak with the brokers at the venues, the different safety companies, and native police, hearth, and army providers. Other DSS brokers will work out of South Korea’s personal command middle. And a pair of situational consciousness groups might be stationed at every cluster, monitoring the areas exterior the venues for potential issues. That means typically mundane work: confirming street is obvious for a VIP’s arrival, or verifying that any street accidents are certainly mishaps, not mischief. This is along with persistent vigilance to all the different potential threats that may seem first exterior the venues.

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

Sharing Is Caring

During the Games themselves, the lead DSS personnel, together with reps from different companies, as wanted, will transient the staffs every morning about any incidents, native police exercise, and different notable intelligence experiences, and the host nation will conduct every day intelligence updates. The DSS will itself report again every day to the State Department and talk with the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a voluntary group of US firms and entities that function abroad and which can be concerned in the Games. (NBC, as an example, can have 2,000 staff distributed between the two clusters, whereas main sponors like Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, and GE will ship their very own delegations.) Again, it’s all about communication. “The main strength we bring is information sharing,” Reistad says. “It doesn’t help any of us to stay compartmentalized over here.”

The nature of the data alternate varies extensively. “The joint operations center works in concert with the liaison efforts and is plugged into the host government’s security structure,” says Thomas Hastings, a safety advisor previously with the State Department and the FBI, who oversaw the State Department’s counterterrorism efforts throughout the 2000 and 1996 Summer Games. “Shared experiences could be as severe as a reputable and particular terrorist menace to an Olympic occasion, venue, or athletes to as routine as the key occasions occurring throughout the subsequent shift, how the native and worldwide media is overlaying the occasions, and so forth. Cyber threats would even be mentioned as would social media exercise, together with amongst conventional adversaries and what they is likely to be posting on social media.”

The collaborating companies will complement their information-gathering ways with some swanky tech, doubtless 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 affirm its technological sources, however the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which interprets satellite tv for pc knowledge and imagery acquired from the National Reconnaissance Office to assist fight and intelligence operations, says on its web site that for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, it constructed detailed interactive digital maps.

Even at floor stage, the DSS faucets each benefit, together with new cell gadgets that “transmit situational awareness of their agents and points-of-interest,” even in low-bandwidth conditions. “We do try to employ as much technology as possible,” Colón mentioned. “It’s a big enabler, in addition to our personnel. We use multiple communication technologies in order to make it as fluid as possible.”


Recent indicators of collaboration between North and South Korea are encouraging, however they hardly imply all’s effectively going into the Games. The DSS wouldn’t disclose operational particulars referring to its contingency planning, besides to say that it’ll conduct simulations at the joint operations middle earlier than the opening ceremony, overlaying quite a lot of situations.

In phrases of the most fashionable panoply of threats, analyst Singer says there are numerous ways the safety forces current would possibly use to reply them. “Defenses against robotic aerial attacks, for instance, will first involve creating an airspace ban around the venues, then surveillance and detection technologies to track potential drones,” says Singer, the safety analyst. “They’ll have technologies to shoot it down or disable it through jamming—hacking into it to hijack or block it, or just overwhelm it electronically.”

On the cyber entrance, the countermeasures will primarily be menace intelligence, which hinges on—you guessed it—sharing data with different companies. “Simply tracking that will add to the resilience against an attack,” Singer says. “Good threat intelligence is not just saying that you see some type of malware, but learning that this group or that group is plotting something. If a threat is detected, knowing that groups used certain techniques in other situations helps identify them as suspects in a current one.”

Finally, there are the potential main catastrophes—terrorist assaults, a nuclear strike, or a pure catastrophe. Those are thought out too. “There’s always a plan,” Reistad mentioned. “Yes, we look at the worst-case scenarios. We sit down together and conduct tabletop exercises and worst-case planning.”

Ultimately, the purpose in South Korea is easy: maintain the drama on the snow and on the ice. And nonetheless the Games go, the DSS and the remainder of the world’s safety companies might be taking notes and honing their method for the subsequent main occasion in a world the place geopolitical tensions present no indicators of calming.

Safe > Sorry

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