Threats to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: Insikt Group Report

Posted: 15th July 2021


Editor’s Note: The following post is an excerpt of a full report. To read the entire analysis, click here to download the report as a PDF.

This report synthesizes findings from the Recorded Future® Platform, dark web communities, and open-source intelligence (OSINT) sources to analyze the threat landscape ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, set to begin on July 23, 2021, after COVID-19 pandemic-related postponements. This report will be of most interest to organizations affiliated with the Olympics organization, Olympic sponsors, or individuals intending to participate or attend the upcoming Olympic Games.

Executive Summary

The Olympic Games are a target-rich environment, drawing athletes from more than 200 nations, worldwide media coverage, and thousands of spectators. The high profile and international nature of the event make the Olympics a target for those seeking to cause politically motivated harm, enrich themselves through criminality, or embarrass the host nation on the international stage. Past Olympics have seen the targeting of the Olympics organization and its partners, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency, from a variety of threat actors.

The upcoming Olympics Games are likely to attract state-sponsored threat activity groups, cybercriminals, and groups motivated by political grievances and regional tensions. Nevertheless, at the time of writing, Recorded Future has not identified any direct threats, planned attacks, or cyber operations against the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Key Judgments

  • State-sponsored threat actors likely pose the most significant threat to the Olympic Games and Olympics-affiliated entities based on their sophisticated capabilities as well as ongoing disputes between various states and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or associated bodies.
  • Given coordinated cyber campaigns targeting previous Olympic Games and affiliated organizations linked to Russian threat activity groups, as well as the current dispute between the IOC and Russia over the country’s eligibility to participate in international sporting events, Russian APT groups are likely the most motivated to target and disrupt the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. APT groups linked to other nation-states, such as China, North Korea, or Iran, either lack historical precedence for targeting such events or are assessed to lack the requisite motivation to do so in the case of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
  • Ransomware likely poses the greatest threat to Olympics-nexus organizations from the cybercriminal perspective. On June 25, 2021, various newspapers in Japan reported that the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) was affected by ransomware in April 2020. Ransomware operators are likely to view the Olympics and associated entities as attractive targets, as downtime of core infrastructure and services are unlikely to be acceptable during the Games; as a result, victim organizations may be heavily incentivized to quickly pay ransoms to restore normal operations.
  • State-sponsored propaganda and disinformation outlets are engaging in initial influence activities against the Tokyo games to generate controversy and undermine the event as unpopular, unsafe, or unfair. These narratives are likely to continue throughout the event.
  • Recorded Future has not observed any direct physical threats aimed toward the Tokyo Olympics or the athletes themselves. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on international guests in Japan likely reduces the opportunity for such attacks to take place. The Olympics are a common venue for political protest, and widespread opposition to the games in Japan due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the country is likely to inspire domestic protests. None of the protests thus far observed, however, have been violent.
Editor’s Note: This post was an excerpt of a full report. To read the entire analysis, click here to download the report as a PDF.