The opening ceremony of PyeongChang WinterOlympic Games in South Korea was the target of a cyber attack by unidentified hackers, the PyeongChang Organising Committee said on Saturday.
The attack on the servers of the organizers of the Games led to malfunctions that disrupted the Main Press Center, the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic Paralympic Games(POCOG), Efe news reported.
The organization had to shut down the servers and its website from late Friday until early Saturday in the wake of the attack, during which time spectators were unable to print their tickets during the outage, according to the POCOG.
Meanwhile, South Korea on Saturday had started investigating the mysterious internet shutdown during the Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Internal internet and Wi-Fi systems crashed at about 7.15pm (9.15pm AEDT) on Friday.
Cyber-security teams and experts from South Korea's defense ministry, plus four other ministries, had formed a task force investigating the shutdown, they said, adding that it didn't affect the hi-tech opening ceremony.
The outage followed warnings of malware phishing attacks targeting organizations working at the Olympics, and allegations of cyber attacks from Russia - which has denied any involvement. The Russian team was formally banned following the revelation of systemic doping. North Korea has also been questioned as it has been blamed for a series of cyber incidents recently.
"We don't want to speculate because we're still trying to find out what the root source is," said Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Games organizers. "We have some reports, we've been working all night trying to find out and working with our partners."
South Korea showed off its technical expertise with a dazzling gala opening ceremony on Friday which included state-of-the-art special effects and augmented reality to add extra impact for TV viewers.
While internet and Wi-Fi were affected across the Olympic site - spread over two main venues in mountainous eastern South Korea - organizers said there was no impact on competition, which got into full swing on Saturday.
"There were some issues that impacted some of our non-critical systems last night for a few hours," Games organizers said in a statement. "These have not disrupted any events, or had any effect on the safety and security of any athletes or spectators," they added.
"All competitions are running as planned and the systems are working at the expected level." Last month, cybersecurity firm McAfee said it had uncovered an attack targeting organizations involved with the Olympics, using a malicious email attachment.
While organizers wouldn't comment on the possibility that an attack was behind the shutdown, experts believe disrupting the Games would be seen as a coup for many hackers.
"The whole world's watching. It's one of the largest stages you can possibly have to get a message out there," Ross Rustici, senior director for intelligence Boston-based Cybereason told the Tribune News Service. "You got a lot of lower-tier guys going after these games. It's headhunting, bragging rights," Rustici was quoted as saying.
Inputs from AFP