NCSC brought in to help protect Eurovision as cyberattack cited as organisers’ biggest concern
Recent reports have claimed that senior government officials are worried about attacks from pro-Russian actors
Credit: Corinne Cumming/EBU
Experts from the National Cyber Security Centre have been brought in help protect the systems underpinning the Eurovision Song Contest, with organisers voicing concerns about the dangers posed by hackers.
The intelligence agency – which is part of GCHQ – has been asked to offer guidance on how to mitigate the risks of a potential cyber assault on voting systems by pro-Russian hackers or other bad actors. Last year’s event – which took less than three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – was targeted by similar attacks from Kremlin supporters. Russia was banned from both that contest and this year’s edition, which is being hosted in the UK rather than, as is traditional, in the country of the previous winner: Ukraine.
Citing a “senior Whitehall official”, The Times reported a week ago that fears were growing over the possibility of cyberattacks intended to disrupt Eurovision’s voting systems or broadcasts.
The BBC’s director of unscripted programmes, Kate Phillips, has admitted that hackers are considered to be the foremost risk to the staging of the event. But the TV executive claimed that there is no specific intelligence regarding a planned attack and, with the advice of NCSC experts, Eurovision is well prepared for the threats it may face.
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“I don’t want to say we’re pretty attack-proof but we’ve done everything we can to make sure the event is as secure as possible so people don’t have to worry about that,” she told the Guardian. “Cyberattacks are the main worry because they’re becoming more and more frequent. Most companies seem to have been hacked. We’re very conscious that we are open to a cyberattack but everything we’ve done I think mitigates that.”
This year’s contest – backed by £10m of government money – is being held in Liverpool which hosted the first semi-final on Tuesday. The second takes place tonight, followed by the grand final on Saturday, in which 26 countries will compete.
The NCSC’s reported work to help protect Eurovision comes in the same week that it issued a formal advisory in which it teamed up with international allies to attribute to the Russian state the Snake malware tool. The cyber agency and its counterparts from the other Five Eyes countries – incorporating the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – claimed that the technology has been in operation for almost 20 years, and is used by Russia’s Federal Security Service to spy on other governments, research institutions and journalists.
“The advisory lifts the lid on a highly sophisticated espionage tool used by Russian cyber actors, helping to expose the tactics and techniques being used against specific targets around the world,” said NCSC director of operations Paul Chichester. “We strongly encourage organisations to read the technical information about Snake malware and implement the mitigations to help detect and defend against this advanced threat.”
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