The Security Savants Shielding the Winter Olympics

When the world’s attention shakes to South Korea on February 9, the eyewitness and players will be thinking about more than gold medals. The saber-rattling between the neighboring Koreas realizes for an ominous backdrop to the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, a tension that hearing the countries’ players march under the same flag and skate on the same frost can’t fairly erase.

The Korean situation is unique, but all modern Olympics face menaces, including terrorism and the personal-security chances that come with big international bunch. “Theres” decidedly modern threats to oversee, as well. Premier among other issues: monotones and computers. “What’s different now from past Olympics is increased employment of unmanned systems and the cyber realm to stage strikes, ” says protection commentator Peter Singer. “The attacker doesn’t even have to be onsite. They can do it from afar.”

For instance, terrorists could use unmanned breath or dirt vehicles to deliver chemical agents or explosives, Singer said. Remote intruders could stage denial-of-service onrushes on systems supporting the games or embezzle travelers’ credit card data. They might try to sabotage the Games by altering drug test data, intervening with scoring methods, or doxing contestants by liberating private information to embarrass or distract them before a big phenomenon. “Theres” limitless streets that lone wolfs, terrorist radicals, criminal organizations, or country agents can take to achieve an equally broad range of nefarious goals.

For this reason, secreted in that tension-filled background will be the security forces of dozens of countries, led by the South Korean government’s own key organizations, all working to benefit from a collective expertise that rarely unifies. Allied society consult readily with each other during project and amid the nearly two weeks of affairs, and even normally adversarial countries are more likely to share information at the Games.

South Korea’s security force will run the show, but it’s no bombshell the United States will have one of the most significant powers at the Games. This is where the Diplomatic Security Service gets its turn to glisten. The State Department’s security and law-enforcement agency is charged with protecting embassies and US citizens abroad, and will have 100 agents in the country, plus dozens of additional personnels. They’ll be working in support of the United States Olympic Committee’s own security office and alongside smaller units from other American business that comprise the State Department’s International Security Event Group. Among them: the FBI and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which specializes in spacecraft data analysis and world-wide threat monitoring. In total, the US is transporting 240 contestants and 200 security personnel to Korea. And just like those jocks, these are specialized challengers who invest much of “peoples lives” trained for phenomena like this all-important two-week strain on the global stage.

While less known than the similarly structured Secret services, the Diplomatic Security Service is no wannabe. It has 2,000 agents and 45,000 personnels stationed in more than 170 countries. In addition to being able to routinely contributing to Olympic security, it does the same for the FIFA World Cup, and it even has its own security Super Bowl: the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Months or years before an happening like the Olympics, it sets dedicated agents to the multitude country to help coordinate. Here, the strong ties between the US and South Korea prove helpful. So does Korea’s tech savviness–the home of Samsung and LG is no stranger to cybersecurity.

“We’re very confident in South Korea’s abilities in staging video games, ” said Rick Colon, chairman 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 protection 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) includes a robust roster of authorities: the Korean National Police Agency, the National Intelligence Service, the Presidential Security Service, and the nation’s military.

Pieces in Place

The DSS started prepping for these Games nearly two years ago, when it transported two agents to Seoul, working out of the American delegation there. Their early efforts centered on security inspections at the various types venues, building etiquettes for connected to other agencies, contingency propose, and coordinating the placement of the DSS agents during the Games.

The abiding agents who are capable of converge on South Korea were chosen primarily for their experience with important events or countries of the region in particular, any Korean communication skills, and other factors. They will receive refreshers in first assistance and the communication systems set up for the Olympics, along with additional discipline specific to all the potential scenarios that might play out. The DSS will station more than 20 agents( dubbed study liaison officers) at each of the two venue locations–the PyeongChang mountain cluster, which will host the openness and closing ceremonies and the skiing, snowboarding, and slipping contests( bobsleigh, luge, skeleton ); and the Gangneung cluster at the coast, for skating, hockey, and curling.

“There will be agents assigned to each venue, observing specific crews competing or practicing at those places, ” says Craig Reistad, the agency’s Olympic security coordinator. “Their role is to be on the floor to serve as gazes 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 three hours by teach from those venues ), dozens of additional agents will be stationed at a joint operations core, to communicate with the agents at the venues, the other protection organizations, and local police, volley, and military services. Other DSS agents will work out of South Korea’s own dictation hub. And a duo of situational awareness units will be stationed at each cluster, monitoring the areas outside the venues for potential difficulties. That necessitates sometimes mundane task: confirming that a superhighway is clear for a VIP’s arrival, or be taken to ensure that any road accidents are indeed mishaps , not mischief. This is in addition to persistent vigilance to all the other potential threats that might seem first outside the venues.

Though it’s not directly involved in the security of the Games, there will be another group continued on virtual speed-dial throughout: US Pacific Command( PACOM ), the Department of Defense command that has maintained a proximity in South Korea since 1957, after the Korean War. That presence manifests in US Forces Korea, which maintains more than 30,000 troops in the country that can be mobilized in minutes should any worst-case-scenario difficulty arise.

Sharing Is Caring

During the Game themselves, the induce DSS personnels, along with reps from other agencies, as needed, will brief all staff members each morning about any occurrences, local police work, and other remarkable intelligence reports, and the legion society will be carried out by daily knowledge revises. The DSS will itself report back daily to the State Department and communicate with the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a voluntary organization of US companies and entities that operate overseas and which may be involved in the Game.( NBC, for instance, will have 2,000 hires distributed between the two assembles, while major sponors like Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, and GE will send their own delegatings .) Again, it’s all about communication. “The main fortitude we wreak is information sharing, ” Reistad says. “It doesn’t help any of us to bide compartmentalized over here.”

The nature of the information exchange varies greatly. “The joint operations core works in concert with the liaison the initiatives and is plugged into the emcee government’s defence structure, ” says Thomas Hastings, a protection consultant formerly with the State Department and the FBI, who supervised the State Department’s counterterrorism exertions during the 2000 and 1996 Summer Activity. “Shared reports can be as serious as a credible and specified terrorist menace to an Olympic event, venue, or athletes to as routine as the key affairs arising during the next transformation, how the local and international media is crossing the events, etc. Cyber threats would also be discussed as would social media work, including among traditional adversaries and what they might be post on social media.”

The participating agencies will supplement their information-gathering tactics with some swanky tech, likely including facial acknowledgment organizations, surveillance blimps, smart insurance cameras programmed to see unusual demeanor, and sensors to spot chemical or biological attacks. The DSS wouldn’t confirm its technological riches, but the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which translates satellite data and imagery acquired from the National Reconnaissance Office to support combat and intelligence operations, says on its website that for the 2016 Summertime Game in Rio, it constructed detailed interactive digital maps.

Even at ground level, the DSS taps every advantage, including brand-new mobile designs that “transmit situational awareness of their agents and points-of-interest, ” even in low-bandwidth status. “We do try to employ just as much engineering as possible, ” Colon said. “It’s a big enabler, in addition to our personnels. We use multiple communications technology in order to make it as liquor as possible.”


Recent signs of co-operation between North and South Korea are encouraging, but they hardly necessitate all’s well going into the Games. The DSS wouldn’t divulge operational details relating to its contingency design, except to say that it will be carried out by simulations at the joint operations core before the opening ceremony, plowing a variety of scenarios.

In words of the most modern panoply of threats, analyst Singer says there are many tactics the security forces present might use to answer them. “Defenses against robotic aerial attacks, for example, will first imply creating an airspace forbidding around the venues, then surveillance and detection engineerings to track potential dronings, ” says Singer, security rights psychoanalyst. “They’ll have engineerings to film it down or disable it through jamming–hacking into it to hijack or impede it, or precisely devastate it electronically.”

On the cyber front, the countermeasures will primarily be threat intelligence, which hinges on–you predicted it–sharing information with other agencies. “Simply tracking that will add to the resilience against an attack, ” Singer says. “Good threat intelligence is not just saying that you consider some type of malware, but learning that this group or that group is plotting something. If security threats is seen, knowing that groups used particular proficiencies in other situations facilitate identify them as supposes in a current one.”

Finally, there are the potential major catastrophes–terrorist attacks, a nuclear strike, or a natural disaster. Those are thought out too. “There’s always a project, ” Reistad said. “Yes, we look at the worst-case scenarios. We sit down together and impart tabletop exercisings and worst-case planning.”

Ultimately, the goals and targets in South Korea is simple: keep the drama on the snow and on the sparkler. And nonetheless the Tournament go, the DSS and the rest of the world’s defence agencies will be taking notes and sharpening their approaching for the next major event in a world where geopolitical strains show no signalings of calming.

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