Paris 2024: Cyber attacks, a real concern. GETTY IMAGES

The Paris Olympics are preparing to face an unprecedented wave of cyber threats, now enhanced by the integration of artificial intelligence, marking a significant shift in their defensive strategy.

The range of threats is broad, with potential adversaries ranging from criminal groups seeking financial gain to states seeking to destabilise the Games. "Hacktivist" groups driven by ideological motives, individuals involved in gambling schemes, and even athletes themselves pose potential risks to the cybersecurity infrastructure of the Paris Olympics.

"There are so many moving parts that the attack surface is quite large and it's a very serious security challenge," John Hultquist, an analyst at Mandiant Consulting, a cybersecurity consultancy owned by Google, told AFP.

"We're worried about everything from the broadcasters to the sponsors, to the transportation infrastructure, to the logistics and support, to the competitions. Any kind of disruption is on the table," Hultquist said.

Atos, the cyber security and data provider for the Paris Olympics is responsible for the near instantaneous delivery of Olympic and Paralympic Games results to broadcasters and the media during the summer events. The company has confirmed significant annual losses, but assures Paris 2024 that it will not be affected.

NTT, the Japanese company in charge of IT security for the Tokyo Olympics, reported 450 million cyber-attacks during the Games, twice the number of London 2012. France's information systems security agency, Anssi, and the Ministry of the Interior, with support from Comcyber, are responsible for countering these threats.

Vincent Strubel, the director general of Anssi, told AFP in March that his attitude to the threat was "neither nonchalance nor panic. We've prepared hard. And we still have a few months to fine-tune.

"The worst-case scenario is that we end up drowning in attacks that are not very serious and that we don't see a more dangerous attack coming that targets critical infrastructure," Strubel added.

A risk management expert highlighted in the research magazine Herodote the first cyber-attack on the Olympics, which occurred during the 1976 Montreal Games. The event faced a 48-hour disruption to its information systems due to an electrical outage, leading to the postponement or relocation of several events.

For the first time, the Games will navigate the landscape of democratised and powerful artificial intelligence. "AI will have a huge impact on us. It will allow us to "shuffle data faster and extract key events that will help us to attack our opponents. (But they) have the same resources and, above all, I'm going to have a lot more adversaries. The resources are not up to the challenge of all the attacks we could suffer," said a senior French military official.

"The biggest risk is the disruption of infrastructure and broadcasting. You can literally have an impact on the game itself or on the world's ability to see the games. If no one can see them, it is as good as shutting them down," Hultquist said.

Betsy Cooper, a cybersecurity expert at the Aspen Institute in the US, sees a problem with the competition results: "Disrupting the finish line camera, tampering with a Hawk-Eye refereeing system, deleting times, scrambling scoreboards. The means of disruption are many." She recommends that judges "write down the results on a piece of paper somewhere that does not touch the system."