Olympic Surveillance

Mr. Putin is on edge. It’s unclear if the threat of a terrorist attack during the Olympics or the Russian hockey team’s loss to the U.S. men’s team is a bigger worry, but both must have him tossing and turning.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans expected a terrorist attack during the 22nd Winter Olympics.

Russia invested heavily in technology to guard against an attack. There are at least a dozen drones flying above Sochi and cutting edge S-400 and Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missiles to counter airborne threats.

It is the first time surveillance drones have been used at an Olympics. Drones are filming athletes, too. The Olympic Broadcasting Service uses one drone, with a camera mounted on it, to provide a video feed.

The Russians are also monitoring all communications. Sound familiar?

They rely on a program called Sorm, originally developed by the KGB, to capture telephone and mobile phone communications, intercept internet traffic, and collect information from all forms of communication, providing long-term storage of all information and data on subscribers, including recordings and locations, according to reports.

Last year “Russia’s national telecom operator, launched a 4G LTE network around Sochi, pledging the fastest Wi-Fi networks in Olympic history, free of charge,” according to the Guardian. But at the same time, the telecom operator, Rostelecom, installed DPI, or deep packet inspection, systems on all its mobile networks, allowing the Russian security force FSB to monitor and filter all traffic.

One person called Russia’s far-reaching communications surveillance “Prism on steroids,” referring to the NSA surveillance program.

The FSB has also purchased two sonar systems to detect submarines and protect the Olympics from a sea-launched terror attack. Facial recognition software has allowed Russian security to scan the waves of travelers entering the city through the Sochi airport.

More Than Keeping the Peace
Russian police aren’t just patrolling Sochi’s streets and listening to phone calls.

The Russian Police Choir deserves a gold medal for its cover of a lame pop song during Opening Ceremonies. It just goes to show that pop-music-as-a-second-language is now a reality.

Random Olympic Facts
Let’s hope Bob Costas gets that eye problem fixed once and for all because we’re stuck with NBC for a while.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) struck an exclusive rights deal with NBC in 2011 for the privilege of broadcasting the Olympics in the U.S. through 2020. The network agreed to pay $775 million for this year’s winter games in Sochi, $1.23 billion for the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro, $963 million for the 2018 winter games, and $1.45 billion for the 2020 summer games.

These are the most expensive Olympics ever, costing an estimated $51 billion. Yes, that’s supposed to be a B for billions not an M for millions. The Beijing Summer Olympics cost $46.5 billion.

Gold medals made for the Sochi Olympics have 516 grams of silver and six grams of gold.

The U.S. hockey team has more players from Minnesota than any other state. Eight of the 25 players on the roster are from Minnesota, including T.J. Oshie, whose hometown of Warroad, Minn., is known as Hockeytown, USA, because it has produced eight Olympic hockey players. That’s pretty impressive for a town with fewer than 1,800 people.

Here’s hoping the men’s team keeps pulling off big victories like the one against Russia. We’ll be watching. And with all that technology, the Russian security forces will be watching, too.

Town Hall Meeting

Feel like sharing something Noteworthy? Post a comment below or email me at bglanz@300brand.com.

Bill Glanz is the content director for MeriTalk and its Exchange communities. In the past 14 years, he has worked as a business reporter, press secretary, and media relations director in Washington, D.C.