target nuclear
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano

A series of attacks target nuclear power and research facilities

It is just being reported that A target nuclear power plant suffered a disruptive cyber attack two to three years ago, and there is a serious threat of militant attacks on such plants. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano says a Nuclear power plant was disrupted by a cyberattack. 

IAEA Director Amano also mentioned a case in which an individual tried to smuggle a small amount of highly enriched uranium about four years ago that could have been used to build a bomb.  “This issue of cyber attacks on nuclear-related facilities or activities should be taken very seriously. We never know if we know everything or if it’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Amano declined to give details these incidents but said the cyberattack had caused “some disruption” at the plant, although it did not prove to be very serious since the plant did not have to shut down its operations. He has not previously discussed these cyber attacks in public.

Concerns about cyber attacks that target nuclear sites have grown in recent years after the emergence of computer malware that can be used to attack industrial controls. The issue flared again after the Belgian media reported that the suicide bombers who killed 32 people in Brussels on March 22 originally looked into attacking a target nuclear installation.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd, which operates 23 nuclear reactors in South Korea, said that in 2014 it was beefing up cyber security after non-critical data was stolen from its computer systems, they did also issue a statement that the reactor operations were not at risk.

In April, German utility RWE increased its security after its Gundremmingen nuclear power plant was found to be infected with computer viruses. The company said they did not appear to have posed a threat to operations.

The latest upheaval is an interesting hack concern. Research data and personal information may have been stolen from a personal computer belonging to an important researcher of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, at the University of Toyama’s Hydrogen Isotope Research Center, the university said.

In addition to research data, hackers may have stolen personal information such as email addresses on 1,500 people, including other researchers.

According to the university, two staff members of the center received emails containing a virus in November 2015 and a PC of one of them, a member of the teaching staff, was infected. The PC continued questionable communications with an outside party for about six months.  Attackers stole data in three batches: December 2015, March 2016 and June 2016.

The malware that was used in the breach was delivered via a spear-phishing attack in November of 2015 when a hacker pretended to be a Tokyo university student working on a research assignment. Investigators said that the malware samples they analyzed were also pre-programmed to search the victim’s computer for the term IAEA, which is the acronym for the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

The University of Toyama’s Hydrogen Isotope Research Center is one of the world leaders in tritium research. The center conducts research on hydrogen, deuterium, and tritium, including their use for energy. Tritium is considered a nominee for fuel in nuclear fusion reactors and is also one of the contaminants in the water building up at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Since 2010, the IAEA said it had trained over 10,000 people in nuclear security, including police and border guards, and has given countries more than 3,000 mobile phone-sized instruments for detecting nuclear and other radioactive material.

More here [japantimes] and [Infosecurity]

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