This is a fascinating glimpse of the future of automatic cheating detection in sports:
Maybe you heard about the truly insane false-start controversy in track and field? Devon Allen—a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles—was disqualified from the 110-meter hurdles at the World Athletics Championships a few weeks ago for a false start.
Here’s the problem: You can’t see the false start. Nobody can see the false start. By sight, Allen most definitely does not leave before the gun.
But here’s the thing: World Athletics has determined that it is not possible for someone to push off the block within a tenth of a second of the gun without false starting. They have science that shows it is beyond human capabilities to react that fast. Of course there are those (I’m among them) who would tell you that’s nonsense, that’s pseudoscience, there’s no way that they can limit human capabilities like that. There is science that shows it is humanly impossible to hit a fastball. There was once science that showed human beings could not run a four-minute mile.
Besides, do you know what Devon Allen’s reaction time was? It was 0.99 seconds. One thousandth of a second too fast, according to World Athletics’ science. They’re THAT sure that .01 seconds—and EXACTLY .01 seconds—is the limit of human possibilities that they will disqualify an athlete who has trained his whole life for this moment because he reacted one thousandth of a second faster than they think possible?
We in the computer world are used to this sort of thing. “The computer is always right,” even when it’s obviously wrong. But now computers are leaving the world of keyboards and screens, and this sort of thing will become more pervasive. In sports, computer systems are used to detect when a ball is out of bounds in tennis and other games and when a pitch is a strike in baseball. I’m sure there’s more—are computers detecting first downs in football?—but I’m not enough of a sports person to know them.
Posted on September 21, 2022 at 6:35 AM •
China is mandating that athletes download and use a health and travel app when they attend the Winter Olympics next month. Citizen Lab examined the app and found it riddled with security holes.
- MY2022, an app mandated for use by all attendees of the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, has a simple but devastating flaw where encryption protecting users’ voice audio and file transfers can be trivially sidestepped. Health customs forms which transmit passport details, demographic information, and medical and travel history are also vulnerable. Server responses can also be spoofed, allowing an attacker to display fake instructions to users.
- MY2022 is fairly straightforward about the types of data it collects from users in its public-facing documents. However, as the app collects a range of highly sensitive medical information, it is unclear with whom or which organization(s) it shares this information.
- MY2022 includes features that allow users to report “politically sensitive” content. The app also includes a censorship keyword list, which, while presently inactive, targets a variety of political topics including domestic issues such as Xinjiang and Tibet as well as references to Chinese government agencies.
- While the vendor did not respond to our security disclosure, we find that the app’s security deficits may not only violate Google’s Unwanted Software Policy and Apple’s App Store guidelines but also China’s own laws and national standards pertaining to privacy protection, providing potential avenues for future redress.
It’s not clear whether the security flaws were intentional or not, but the report speculated that proper encryption might interfere with some of China’s ubiquitous online surveillance tools, especially systems that allow local authorities to snoop on phones using public wireless networks or internet cafes. Still, the researchers added that the flaws were probably unintentional, because the government will already be receiving data from the app, so there wouldn’t be a need to intercept the data as it was being transferred.
The app also included a list of 2,422 political keywords, described within the code as “illegalwords.txt,” that worked as a keyword censorship list, according to Citizen Lab. The researchers said the list appeared to be a latent function that the app’s chat and file transfer function was not actively using.
The US government has already advised athletes to leave their personal phones and laptops home and bring burners.
Posted on January 21, 2022 at 6:06 AM •
Researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Peloton stationary bicycles, one that would give the attacker complete control over the device.
The attack requires physical access to the Peloton, so it’s not really a practical attack. President Biden’s Peloton was not in danger.
Posted on June 18, 2021 at 6:18 AM •
The Kraken is the name of Seattle’s new NFL franchise.
I have always really liked collective nouns as sports team names (like the Utah Jazz or the Minnesota Wild), mostly because it’s hard to describe individual players.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.
Read my blog posting guidelines here.
Posted on July 24, 2020 at 4:07 PM •
Interesting details on Olympic Destroyer, the nation-state cyberattack against the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Wired’s Andy Greenberg presents evidence that the perpetrator was Russia, and not North Korea or China.
EDITED TO ADD (11/13): Attribution to Russia is not new.
Posted on October 21, 2019 at 6:23 AM •
The Spanish Soccer League’s smartphone app spies on fans in order to find bars that are illegally streaming its games. The app listens with the microphone for the broadcasts, and then uses geolocation to figure out where the phone is.
The Spanish data protection agency has ordered the league to stop doing this. Not because it’s creepy spying, but because the terms of service—which no one reads anyway—weren’t clear.
Posted on June 27, 2019 at 6:41 AM •
I’ve previously written about people cheating in marathon racing by driving—or otherwise getting near the end of the race by faster means than running. In China, two people were convicted of cheating in a pigeon race:
The essence of the plan involved training the pigeons to believe they had two homes. The birds had been secretly raised not just in Shanghai but also in Shangqiu.
When the race was held in the spring of last year, the Shanghai Pigeon Association took all the entrants from Shanghai to Shangqiu and released them. Most of the pigeons started flying back to Shanghai.
But the four specially raised pigeons flew instead to their second home in Shangqiu. According to the court, the two men caught the birds there and then carried them on a bullet train back to Shanghai, concealed in milk cartons. (China prohibits live animals on bullet trains.)
When the men arrived in Shanghai, they released the pigeons, which quickly fluttered to their Shanghai loft, seemingly winning the race.
Posted on August 30, 2018 at 6:34 AM •
Two weeks ago, I blogged about the myriad of hacking threats against the Olympics. Last week, the Washington Post reported that Russia hacked the Olympics network and tried to cast the blame on North Korea.
Of course, the evidence is classified, so there’s no way to verify this claim. And while the article speculates that the hacks were a retaliation for Russia being banned due to doping, that doesn’t ring true to me. If they tried to blame North Korea, it’s more likely that they’re trying to disrupt something between North Korea, South Korea, and the US. But I don’t know.
Posted on March 1, 2018 at 6:47 AM •
There are a lot:
The cybersecurity company McAfee recently uncovered a cyber operation, dubbed Operation GoldDragon, attacking South Korean organizations related to the Winter Olympics. McAfee believes the attack came from a nation state that speaks Korean, although it has no definitive proof that this is a North Korean operation. The victim organizations include ice hockey teams, ski suppliers, ski resorts, tourist organizations in Pyeongchang, and departments organizing the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Meanwhile, a Russia-linked cyber attack has already stolen and leaked documents from other Olympic organizations. The so-called Fancy Bear group, or APT28, began its operations in late 2017— according to Trend Micro and Threat Connect, two private cybersecurity firms—eventually publishing documents in 2018 outlining the political tensions between IOC officials and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officials who are policing Olympic athletes. It also released documents specifying exceptions to anti-doping regulations granted to specific athletes (for instance, one athlete was given an exception because of his asthma medication). The most recent Fancy Bear leak exposed details about a Canadian pole vaulter’s positive results for cocaine. This group has targeted WADA in the past, specifically during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Assuming the attribution is right, the action appears to be Russian retaliation for the punitive steps against Russia.
A senior analyst at McAfee warned that the Olympics may experience more cyber attacks before closing ceremonies. A researcher at ThreatConnect asserted that organizations like Fancy Bear have no reason to stop operations just because they’ve already stolen and released documents. Even the United States Department of Homeland Security has issued a notice to those traveling to South Korea to remind them to protect themselves against cyber risks.
One presumes the Olympics network is sufficiently protected against the more pedestrian DDoS attacks and the like, but who knows?
EDITED TO ADD: There was already one attack.
Posted on February 12, 2018 at 6:36 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.