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World Cup Match-up: Fifa Vs Hackers

Teddy Rogers

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Teddy Rogers
FIFA's networking partner said today it was expecting hackers to launch huge denial of service attacks against the World Cup football network as the first game of the long-awaited tournament in Germany draws closer.

Avaya's business development manager in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Roger Jones, said he expected malicious computer users to reprise the to-date unsuccessful attacks against the networks servicing the 2002 World Cup, the 2003 Women’s World Cup and the warmup tournament for Germany 2006, the Confederations Cup.

However, Jones said there had been "nothing of note so far" after earlier telling a group of journalists that white hat hackers had been contracted to test the strength of the network.

The head of FIFA’s IT Solutions project, Mike Kelly, told CNET.com.au sister site ZDNet Australia that a security team comprising technology partners Avaya and Deutsche Telekom had undertaken extensive testing of the network’s resilience in response to a range of scenarios.

Kelly acknowledged the value of the information held by FIFA, which included extensive personal details of applicants for accreditation to the tournament billed as the largest sporting event in the world.

He said in a brief interview he was "extremely confident" that FIFA and its partners were taking all measures to prevent attacks.

Jones noted the tournament’s IT command centre -- based in Munich -- would have network security specialists on hand constantly throughout the tournament, while workers monitoring and managing other aspects of the network would hand over to a facility in Texas at the conclusion of a working day.

The Avaya manager declined to reveal which vendors were involved in security for the network this tournament -- including provision of intrusion prevention and virus-scanning software.

He did reveal, however, that the system had been substantially redesigned and the vendors changed from that employed at the previous Cup, though the head of network security had remained unchanged from the 2002 event.

The World Cup network is required to run at 99.999 percent availability, meaning the IT Solutions project team and vendors have built redundancy into the network at all points, according to Kelly.

He said the cumulative audience for the World Cup was expected to reach 32 billion, up from 28 billion who watched the previous tournament in Japan and Korea.

Traffic for the Internet property fifaworldcup.com is expected to exceed the 2 billion registered four years ago, he said.

He said the converged IP network being used for the event yielded significant benefits for FIFA over alternative voice and data solutions, including deployment of less infrastructure, involvement of fewer people making less effort and the generation of extensive savings in call charges.

Kelly’s IT Solutions unit is responsible for building networks covering hotels used as headquarters in each city where matches are held as well as the stadiums. The network must also be extended to facilities not part of the stadium proper, such as ticketing offices.

The IT Solutions boss underlined the enormity of the task he faces in undertaking the project by saying that not only is the network a temporary infrastructure with a short life, but he and his team only have a short time to build it.

Extensive planning had to account for the fact the last matches in the German Bundesliga championship finished in early May, meaning Kelly and his team could not get into the stadium until the first or second week of that month.

Once they did, "everything had to be deployed, tested and operational" within a month, he said.

It also has to be torn down completely as soon as the tournament is finished, Kelly said, noting that some venues had to be vacated well and truly prior to the World Cup Final in around four weeks. The stadium at Leipzig is the first to go offline, presently scheduled for 24 June, and the FIFA team has just three days to hand a "clean" venue back to its owners.

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