Securing the Inaugural F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix

Each Formula 1 race weekend transforms a different city around the world into a temporary host for 10 teams, along with their cars and mobile infrastructure. The Las Vegas Grand Prix, making its debut in Sin City, is no exception. However, the event has encountered some unpredictability, with cold weather and a rogue drain cover causing disruption on the track. Despite these challenges, cybersecurity experts from McLaren Racing, the city of Las Vegas, and Darktrace are embracing the task of anticipating and addressing unexpected threats.

Major live sporting events are attractive targets for hackers due to their prominence, visibility, and international attention. For example, Russia’s attempt to target the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea involved disruptive attacks and information gathering hacks. With advanced digital analysis and quantified performance becoming integral to all sports, Formula 1, as a data-heavy sport, is no exception. The abundance of data generated by race cars, functioning as extensive sensor arrays traveling at speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour, requires quick processing to determine real-time strategies and modifications, making the sport susceptible to potential cyber threats. Any disruption, such as a denial of service attack or theft of intellectual property, could prove disastrous for an F1 team.

Ed Green, McLaren’s head of commercial technology, acknowledges the sport’s public nature, emphasizing the importance of integrating security into the team’s operations to safeguard against potential threats. At each race, McLaren’s setup acts as a mobile data center, connecting the on-site pit crew with their home base. Minimizing latency in the digital connection between the track and headquarters is vital, considering the significant geographic and network distance that varies from one race weekend to another.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown highlights the significance of cybersecurity, particularly in protecting the design IP of their race car and ensuring the confidentiality of trade secrets while navigating third-party collaborations worldwide. Darktrace, a provider of digital defense services for McLaren and the city of Las Vegas, emphasizes the prevalence of phishing, business email compromise, and other scams related to Formula 1, which their real-time, AI-based threat monitoring system effectively identifies and blocks.

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