Olympics to bring London IT security challenges

London is expected to spend at least $2 billion on security when it hosts the 2012 Olympics

Britain's IT industry is likely to see business surge as London prepares to spend at least £1 billion ($2 billion) on security when it hosts the 2012 Olympics.

The cost could rise as the U.K. tries to fortify itself during the world's most prominent sporting event from a repeat of the July 2005 bombings on London's transport system, said Derek Wyatt, a member of Parliament who spoke at InfoSecurity Europe in London on Tuesday.

"I hope this gives you an inkling of what I think will be the biggest piece of business your industry is going to face over the next five years," Wyatt told a crowd of IT executives.

Technology will play a major role, although decisions on how it will be integrated are far from decided, Wyatt said. One security issue is authentication: how to ensure a person who holds a ticket is indeed the same person who bought it.

Ideas on authentication are being floated. London's mass transit card, called the Oyster, is capable of acting as an identity card and can store fingerprints, Wyatt said. Nokia Corp. also has an ID authentication system for mobile phones, another possible alternative since many people carry them, he said.

But neither Transport for London, the authority that runs the Oyster card program, nor Nokia are lead Olympic sponsors, "so we can't use their technology," Wyatt said.

As one of the eight major sponsors, credit-card company Visa International will make many of the security decisions, although the company has yet to detail their plans, Wyatt said. "We will have to wait for Visa to come forward with a system that they want to cover the ticketing and the ID," he said.

When Olympic building begins, the U.K. will immediately face security issues such as performing background checks on those who have access to the 16 construction sites across Britain.

But there's a labor shortage, which will likely result in workers coming from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland, countries "that have some work to do," on security, Wyatt said.

Members of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda may try to get hired as laborers, making identity verification important, Wyatt said. Another question is if law enforcement agencies -- the police, customs, and transport authorities -- will have access to a common database to share data, he said.