UBC expert assesses Sochi’s complex threat environment
From bomb threats to cyber attacks, UBC security expert Allen Sens of UBC’s Dept. of Political Science outlines the security challenges facing the Olympics.
What are some of the security threats facing the Sochi Games?
Many possibilities exist. Among the more likely are cyber attacks, with hackers attempting to disrupt web and communications infrastructure. The use of constant threats and false alerts about bombs and attacks could disrupt events and transportation. Less likely but potentially more damaging examples include poisoning of water or food supplies. And the nightmare scenario is the use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Attacks may take place outside the Sochi area, such as the recent attacks in Volgograd. And there is always the possibility of individuals attacking from the inside by using their position to gain access to facilities or infrastructure.
The Caucasus Emirate has called for attacks on the Games. Do other groups pose a threat?
It’s a very complex threat environment. There are many militant groups in the region that aren’t affiliated with the Caucasus Emirate, all with motives for attacking the Games. Terrorists from outside the region may see the Games as an opportunity to advance their cause. There is also the possibility that a group has formed solely to attack the Games. We may not even know of its existence yet. Individuals may also choose to attack the Games for personal motives that may be related to a wide range of grievances.
What can visitors expect in terms of security measures?
Security will be visible and very tight. This is true of the physical security and the presence of large numbers of security personnel, but it is also true of surveillance and electronic eavesdropping. The security for these Games will include large numbers of drones and robots, and a high level of electronic observation. Personal privacy will be hard to come by in Sochi and in Russia during these Games. I would suggest visitors assume that everything they communicate, post, send, or speak is being monitored and recorded, and behave accordingly.
Allen Sens is a teaching professor in UBC’s Dept. of Political Science.