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Insight: Keeping the F1 teams safe from cyber attacks

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Insight: Keeping the F1 teams safe from cyber attacks
Sep 25, 2014, 1:00 PM

How do F1 teams keep their data safe from malicious attacks? In the mad rush from Grand Prix to Grand Prix, it's something one doesn't often pause ...

How do F1 teams keep their data safe from malicious attacks? In the mad rush from Grand Prix to Grand Prix, it's something one doesn't often pause to consider.

But attacks do happen; in pre-season testing at Bahrain this year Marussia was hit with a Trojan Horse virus and it knocked the cars out for a day, costing them valuable track time. "It was a computer Trojan-type virus in the racks, which cost us the best part of the day," Marussia boss John Booth said at the time.

At the time of the controversial 2012 running of the Bahrain Grand Prix the activist hacking group Anonymous briefly brought down the official Formula 1 website F1.com, via a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Alexander Moiseev

I met recently with Alexander Moiseev, the managing director for Europe of Kaspersky Lab, a €600m a year turnover business, which looks after data protection for Ferrari and its F1 team. It was quite a chilling discussion.

"It has become a technological war," he said cooly. "There are victims. Ten years ago you'd get a couple of guys, good programmers and coders, and they'd say 'I can show you that I can break into this system and show you how it works,' - it was just a proof of concept, no big deal.

"Then it became a business because they can break in and get credit card data and they could gather lots of that and it became a big money business.

"Today it has become something more; we had the famous example of the Stuxnet attack on a nuclear power plant in Iran. Criminals have bad creative minds, they create some genius software to be used as weapons. We have to try to block them and to make the window of vulnerability as small as possible."

Even F1 teams are not immune. "There are lots of attacks from outside," he said. "Targeted attacks, people looking for possible breaches. In reality you can download an application from the internet and lose a day of track time just because your PCs are stuck. In the case of Marussia it was a 'best case' because the PCs were just stuck, it wasn't that they had all their data erased.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari

"We protect the perimeter for Ferrari, we protect the factory, the PCs, but that isn't enough. You have to also analyse where the threats are coming from and reroute the malicious guys.

"F1 teams are managing big budgets, lots of money. Cyber criminals are driven by money, few of them are driven by some idealistic quest.

Today Kaspersky has 10 people dedicated to working with Ferrari on the automotive side as well as the F1 team.

"When we started working with Ferrari the first thing they showed us was the speed of the car data they analyse. It's unbelievable," says Moiseev, himself a keen amateur GT racer. "The data must be secure, fast and untouched. This was our first challenge; to guarantee the security of the data without slowing it down.

"We spent a lot of time looking at their factory, the PCs and servers in the drawing office. Think about the intellectual property there. What is fundamental is to protect the factory from all the outside attacks.

"We can do some intelligence on it, study how the threats are evolving, who they are coming from, how they are targeted. We can learn from attempted attacks and tell companies which door they need to close. You cannot live your life with all the doors closed, people should be able to knock on the door and enter as a guest.

"But if you are expecting a guy with a gun, if you know which door he's going to enter through, you can be sure to keep it closed..."
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