French soldiers from the "Operation Sentinelle" French military operation, protecting the deemed sensitive "points" of the territory from terrorism, poses below the Sacre-Coeur basilica in Paris. GETTY IMAGES

The 2024 Paris Olympic Games, a highly anticipated international event, face numerous threats due to their high-profile nature and global significance. Research conducted by Recorded Future’s Insikt Group has identified several key risks, including cybercriminal activities, hacktivist disruptions, and state-sponsored espionage and influence operations. The event's extensive security measures are designed to counter potential terrorist threats. However, it remains a potential target for violent extremists and opportunistic criminal groups.

The Paris Olympics, drawing athletes from over 200 nations, widespread media coverage, and millions of spectators, present a prime target for those seeking to cause harm, disrupt proceedings, enrich themselves through criminal activities, or embarrass the host nation. Based on a comprehensive assessment of past attacks, identified threats, and the geopolitical context, Insikt Group has pinpointed several high-priority threats to the Games.

Multifaceted threats to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. RECORDED FUTURE
Multifaceted threats to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. RECORDED FUTURE

Cybercriminal Activities 

Cybercriminals are expected to exploit the pressures surrounding the event to launch ransomware attacks against critical sectors, including government, hospitality, transportation, logistics, and healthcare. Olympic-themed phishing scams are also anticipated to target businesses and attendees. "Organizations involved in the Olympics are urged to heighten awareness of phishing threats and prioritize patching high-risk vulnerabilities", the report from Recorded Future’s Insikt Group said.

Hacktivist Disruptions 

Hacktivists may attempt cyber disruptions to protest geopolitical conflicts, such as support for Ukraine and Israel. "While most hacktivist groups lack the capability to cause significant harm, some with ties to the Iranian government have been effective in disruptive attacks", the report added. Increased DDoS activity, website defacements, and potential wiper malware disguised as ransomware are anticipated.

State-Sponsored Espionage and Influence Operations 

Despite expected restraint in cyber disruptions due to France’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership, espionage operations are likely to escalate. "State actors may use Olympic-themed lures to gather intelligence, and influence operations from Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan will likely amplify narratives critical of France, NATO, and Israel", the report said.

Civil unrest and disruptive protests

A significant array of protest groups –including environmental activists, pro-Palestinian supporters, farmers, and labor union members– will almost certainly seek to attract attention to their causes by disrupting the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. "While these protests will likely be mostly peaceful and primarily result in moderate impediments to traffic and transportation networks, environmentalist agitators and those opposing Israel’s participation in the Paris Olympics are the most likely to engage in forceful clashes with security forces or counter-protesters", the report from Recorded Future’s Insikt Group said.

Terrorist Threats

Supporters of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Europe almost certainly intend to target the Olympics with terrorist attacks. Ideologically driven protest groups will also seek to disrupt the event to advance their agendas. Extensive security measures are expected to mitigate the probability and impact of successful attacks or violent protests. Event organizers are advised to monitor online forums and messaging applications for potential attack vectors and targets.

"Despite the likelihood of cyber disruptions from hacktivists and criminal groups, geopolitical developments could shift the threat landscape. Escalations in Russia’s war against Ukraine or significant increases in French aid to Ukraine could trigger actions from Russian state-sponsored groups", according to the report. Similarly, developments in the Middle East could heighten the risk of attacks from hacktivists, terrorists, or state proxy groups. Monitoring tensions in Europe and the Middle East is crucial to anticipate increased risks.

The warning from Insikt Group coincides with French authorities' announcement of thwarting at least two terror plots targeting the upcoming Games. In late April, French anti-terrorism forces arrested a 16-year-old from Marignier who had posted on social media about his intention to build an explosive belt and carry out a suicide bombing at an Olympic venue. Last week, French security officials arrested an 18-year-old accused of planning an IS-inspired attack at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne.

About Recorded Future

Recorded Future is the most comprehensive and independent threat intelligence cloud platform. Insikt Group is the threat research division of Recorded Future and consists of analysts and security researchers with extensive experience in government, law enforcement, military and intelligence. Insikt Group is a leading intelligence and research organisation dedicated to identifying and analysing global threats. Through comprehensive research and analysis, Insikt Group provides insights that help organisations and nations prepare for and mitigate risk.