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[ISN] No medals for UK Government over London Olympics security


By Davey Winder
26 Apr 2007

Giving an otherwise rather dull and predictable keynote speech at 
Infosecurity Europe about the IT security demands of running the London 
Olympics, Derek Wyatt MP has let it slip that UK Government hands are 
tied when it comes to security technology. He also made it clear that he 
has no idea where the security threat will come from stating who are the 
enemy? I wish I knew and dont ever underestimate the intelligence of the 
opposition, whoever that is. But the biggest concern I have over the 
ramblings of the Right Honourable gentleman came when he started talking 
about the problems faced in identity management and authentication not 
only during the event but in the run up to it, with the construction of 
the venue. Wyatt sound quite upbeat about the possibility of using the 
London Oyster card, used for public transport travel, which could be 
upgraded fairly easily to incorporate biometric data and turned into a 
mini-ID card. He also sounded quite impressed with the idea of using the 
Nokia based authentication system for mobile phones. Upbeat and 
impressed, and then he dropped the bombshell, which I hope will not be a 
bad choice of words for the future, when he casually revealed that 
because neither of these companies was a major sponsor of the Olympics 
their technology could not be used.

Yes, you read that right, as far as the technology behind the security 
of the London Olympic Games is concerned best of breed and suitability 
for purpose do not come into it, paying a large amount of money to the 
International Olympic Committee does.

So who has bought their way into being the security experts of choice, 
and with whom our security and that of the visiting millions will rest? 
Visa. Oh whoopy-doo, I admit to feeling much more reassured now, after 
all these are the same people who do not suffer from any problems with 
identity and authentication and fraud and crime on a huge scale within 
their own business sector after all. Not.

And in case you are wondering why anyone should get wound up by the 
ramblings of some MP you have never heard of, the fact that he was 
speaking in his official capacity as Chairman of the All Party 
Parliamentary Olympic Group might just grab your attention as it did 

Even when questioned by a member of the British Computer Society 
Security Group who was as shocked as I, and expressed total disbelief 
that potentially far better technologies were to be overlooked simply 
because a sponsor had to be used, Wyatt gave a half-hearted shrug of the 
shoulders response along the lines of it is out of our hands.

Personally I find it beyond contempt that security decisions that will 
impact upon the whole country, and the billions watching around the 
world, come down to a money making opportunity for a sponsor rather than 
being a Government controlled process. Wyatt readily admits it is 
nothing to do with him, his committee or indeed the Government as the 
deals arrangements are between the IOC and their sponsors. He also 
readily admits he doesnt see why the UK should have to foot the 1billion 
cost of security in that case.

But again, he misses the point. Security in this case should not be 
about money, or who foots the bill, but about preventing lives from 
being lost and terror winning a gold medal on the world stage.

Visa have, as of yet, to reveal what plans it has for the games..

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