“Checking your browser before accessing swimming.org.au” was the page Australian swimming fans were greeted with on Thursday and Friday the 11th and 12th of August. The site was under cyber-attack, which has been uncovered as a DDos (Distributed Denial of service) attack. Simply, a DDos attack is a large group of internet hackers trying to block and slow down the entry to the desired website or online resource. Swimming Australia wasn’t the only victim of a cyber-attack, with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) also having their servers under cyber infiltration in the past week.
WADA also confirmed that illegal activity occurred on Yuliya Stepanova’s account that includes her whereabouts filings and testing history. Stepanova was the Russian whistleblower who shed light on the recent state-sponsored Russian doping scandal. The CAS is the ruling legal body that banned a vast majority of Russian Athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games due to information identified by Stepanova, with WADA being the organization that carried out the doping tests. WADA and the CAS were alerted to the potential leak when online freedom fighters ‘Anonymous Poland’ claimed to have leaked information via a YouTube video. With Anonymous announcing via their Twitter account that documents in the form of emails, passwords, and personal information were uncovered.
The cyber-attack on Swimming Australia has been suspected to originate from a sophisticated Chinese group of internet hackers. This follows Australian Olympic 400m champion Mack Horton raising awareness to the media of Sun Yang’s recent doping violations. However, at this time, no group or country has admitted to the attack.
This incident follows the personal attacks on Mack Horton’s social media page who was subject to over half a million comments of abuse and threats via his personal Instagram account. Horton’s comments infuriated the Chinese Swimming Association, who demanded an apology during the Games. However, Australian chef de mission Kitty Chiller informed the media that “We have no intention of making an apology.”
Service was restored to Swimming Australia, WADA, and the CAS websites by the 13th of August, with media statements being released from all three sites indicating that this was an isolated incident.