Olympic-size security demands advance planning

IT team builds on experience at Salt Lake City games

If there's one thing the Atos Origin team understands as lead contractor for the Olympic IT infrastructure, it's that you must learn from your mistakes.

One such lesson learned the hard way: Security must be built in from the start, says Claude Philipps, program director of major events at Atos Origin. For the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, the company "started embedding the security too late, so it wasn't running well," he says.

The lapse caused nothing serious, aside from a few headaches: "We had a lot of attacks, but we ran the games safely," Philipps says.

The team found the number of alarms generated by security systems can become unmanageable without software help. Based on the number of alarms seen in Salt Lake City, they could expect to see 200,000 per day related to security in Athens, Philipps says -- most of them irrelevant warnings.

"This is not manageable: Screens would be flickering all day long, so we want to reduce it to [the] 10 to 50 that are real," Philipps says. This year, Atos Origin is using Computer Associates' eTrust to filter the alarms based on a set of rules.

Careful filtering can help in other ways, too, particularly when it comes to Windows 2000 permissions. To prevent power falling into the wrong hands, information Security Manager Yan Noblot uses NetIQ for security administration.

"It allows us to have a more granular definition of rules," Noblot says, "We don't have to give admin rights to the help desk; we give them only the rights they need."

That precaution might rule out some social engineering attacks, but there are other ways in. In Salt Lake City, miscreants got around application-level locks on public-access PCs by rebooting them and trying to get into the network from there, Noblot says.

Anyone hoping to introduce a virus or other software onto the network in Athens will find the CD-ROM drives, floppy drives, and USB ports on PCs and servers disabled.

According to Philipps, it's cheaper to have the suppliers deliver standard machines then uninstall the drivers and disable the drives and ports at the BIOS level than it is to order special machines.

If any of the PCs later need a last-minute anti-virus update or security patch installed, "we distribute it through the network using tools like LANDesk or Symantec Ghost," Philipps says. With the CD-ROM drives out of use, there'd be no point in sending someone running around the 60 or so venues with an update CD, unless they were training for the marathon.