By Duncan Mackay

BOA_WandsworthAugust 3 - A massive global cyber spying campaign may have targetted the British Olympic Association (BOA) in the run-up to Beijing 2008, former chief executive Simon Clegg fears.

California-based McAfee said in a report published today it had identified 72 victims in 14 countries of a sophisticated hacking effort dubbed "Operation Shady Rat," which it traced back to at least 2006, it revealed today.·

Among the organisations they claimed had been targets were the International Olympic Committee (IOC), World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and several Western and Asian National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

The IOC claimed that they did not believe that they had been victims but Clegg told insidethegames that at least one British governing body had to call in the police because of suspicions that they had been hacked.

So worried were the BOA, who were then based in offices in Wandsworth in south-west London, that in early 2008 they held a special one-day conference organised by worldwide Olympic sponsor Atos Origin where top-level security consultants advised them how to make their systems safe.·

"In the build-up to the Beijing Olympics the BOA was so concerned about the threat that it spoke to a number of governing bodies who had either been successfully or unsuccessfully hacked," Clegg told insidethegames.

Simon_Clegg_head_and_shouldersClegg (pictured), who is now the chief executive at Ipswich Town Football Club, added: "We were obviously concerned about the integrity·of our systems and them being compromised in the build-up to the Olympics in Beijing.

"One govening body shared with us that its system had been so severely hacked that it was the subject of a police inquiry, forcing it to close down its IT deperatment."

McAfee vice-president for threat research Dmitri Alperovitch described it as a "five-year targeted operation by one specific actor" but declined to identify the country responsible, although several experts have claimed that it was China.

McAfee claimed that the fact organisations linked to the Olympics were targetted was·"particularly intriguing and potentially pointed a finger at a state actor behind the intrusions, because there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks."

Other "compromised parties" included the Governments of Canada, India, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Vietnam, McAfee said, as well as a US Department of Energy research laboratory and around a dozen US defence contractors.

Others included computer networks of the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

WADA, who are based in Montreal, have also admitted that they suspect they were victims of an attack, although they were not as serious as claimed by McAfee.

"Following the release of the McAfee white paper on Operation Shady Rat, WADA can confirm that it has been in communication with McAfee and is investigating thoroughly the reported cyber intrusions," Director General David Howman said.

"WADA has a highly-sophisticated security system in place which is managed by ISS (IBM), and with the information available to it ISS has to-date found no evidence of this corruption.

"In February 2008 WADA experienced a security breach of its email system and consequently filed a complaint with the Quebec State Police and co-operated with an FBI investigation.

"Nothing was compromised and following the intrusion WADA's security experts upgraded the Agency's firewalls.

"WADA's Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS), which is on a completely different server to WADA's emails, has never been compromised and remains a highly-secure system for the retention of athlete data.

"At this stage, WADA has no evidence from its security experts of the intrusions as listed by McAfee and the Agency has yet to be convinced that they took place. "

The BOA said that they were confident that they would not suffer any cyber attacks in the build-up to London 2012.

"For every business, data protection is an increasingly important issue and we continually review our systems to make certain we have the appropriate safeguards in place," a spokesman told insidethegames.

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