Super Bowl 50 Tightens Cybersecurity This year's Super Bowl will be held in the most technologically advanced stadium in the world. FBI special agent John Lightfoot talks to NPR's Rachel Martin about the threat of cyber attacks.

Super Bowl 50 Tightens Cybersecurity

Super Bowl 50 Tightens Cybersecurity

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This year's Super Bowl will be held in the most technologically advanced stadium in the world. FBI special agent John Lightfoot talks to NPR's Rachel Martin about the threat of cyber attacks.


You may have heard there is a big game tonight. Carolina meets Denver in Super Bowl 50, and they will take the field at Levi's stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers, in the heart of Silicon Valley. And yes, in this day and age, anytime you have and event this big, it becomes a huge security undertaking. This year, officials are focusing in particular on cyberthreats. John Lightfoot joins me now. He is assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco division. Welcome to the program.

JOHN LIGHTFOOT: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's talk about Levi's Stadium. This is not your average football stadium. It has hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable running through it, 13,000 Wi-Fi access points. How vulnerable is the stadium to a cyberattack, do you think?

LIGHTFOOT: You know, first of all, you're absolutely right. Levi's Stadium is not your typical stadium. It is the newest in the country, and it's the most technologically capable stadium in the world. When they built and designed this place a couple of years ago, they built into it cybersecurity. And so going forward for tonight's game, we have not assessed that there are any credible cyberthreats to either the functionality of the stadium or to the users or the fan experience for the 80 - 90,000 people who will be there.

MARTIN: We don't want to traffic in fear mongering, and you've just said there are no specific threats. But what, theoretically, could a hacker do?

LIGHTFOOT: So at previous major sporting events at other stadiums, there have been scam websites, scam emails that try to sell you tickets, lodging or something to participate in the fan experience at the game. But a lot of those, in the past, have been bogus and they just scam people out of their money.

MARTIN: I would also imagine you would have to protect the electrical grid, computer systems that help with crowd control or emergency services because, of course, we remember in 2013 that game...


MARTIN: ...In New Orleans when the lights went out. I mean, as a professional, when you saw that happening, what did you think?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, there are a number of possibilities. Either somebody - you know, a fuse blew or an intentional act, and it took about 15 minutes, which is pretty fast, relatively, but not when you're on live TV worldwide in front of more than 1 billion viewers. And it turned out to be just a glitch in the system. So the folks here who manage the power grid do not want a repeat of the incident, and they've taken a lot of steps, a lot of measures to make sure that doesn't happen.

MARTIN: And of course, you mentioned the fan experience, which is unique at this stadium. You can do all kinds of things here in the stadium from your phone - order food from your seat, watch replays, even find the closest bathroom with the shortest lines...


MARTIN: ...I understand, which is crazy and I - quite utilitarian. What should fans be on the lookout for when they're trying to get online to access some of these services during the game?

LIGHTFOOT: The main thing that people at the stadium will want to do is make sure when they log onto the Wi-Fi network, they're logging into the Levi Stadium network, not some other network. Just exercise due diligence, caution tonight at the game and any other time that you're using the Internet.

MARTIN: Last pressing question - Carolina or Denver?

LIGHTFOOT: As Coldplay said - as Chris Martin said the other day, he's rooting for the Denver Panthers.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

LIGHTFOOT: And I thought that was a great answer.

MARTIN: John Lightfoot, special agent in charge in the FBI San Francisco division. John, thanks so much for talking with us.

LIGHTFOOT: Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate it.

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