Cyber Attacks On US Energy Plants Reach "Urgent" Level

Frederick Owens
July 8, 2017

A New York Times report indicates a Kansas nuclear power plant was among hundreds of oil, gas and energy investment companies targeted by Russian hackers.

The hackers accessed computer systems at at least a dozen nuclear power stations, including the Wolf Creek nuclear facility in Kansas.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that sources familiar with the work being done to remove hackers from the power plant computer systems told them that Russian Federation was the likely suspect behind these cyberattacks.

The joint report was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed by security specialists who have been responding to the attacks. The attackers appeared to be on a reconnaissance mission, seeking to understand the workings of the networks, possibly laying the groundwork for a future assault. The hacking doesn't appear to have breached any "operations systems" to control the facilities themselves but did breach administrative networks. Jeff Keeley of the NEI said no plants had reported any attacks on operational systems, which plants are required to do in the event of an attempted hack that targets infrastructure, operations or services of a power plant.

Wolf Creek nuclear power operator in Kansas is one of at least a dozen US power firms breached in a cyber-attack, Reuters reported. Worldwide governments have also taken to deeming power plants as criticial infrastructure to offer them additional security against potential cyberthreats.

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The Wolf Creek nuclear plant was accidentally named in the DHS and Federal Bureau of Investigation alert, called out because hackers had stolen a plant employee's computer credentials.

Wolf Creek declined to comment on security issues but emphasized that there had been no "operational impact" on its facility. Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg that there are various safeguards at nuclear sites that ensure, "you can't really cause a nuclear plant to melt down just by taking out the secondary systems that are connected to the grid".

The DHS document carried the second-highest threat rating, the Times said.

Hackers wrote highly targeted email messages containing fake résumés for control engineering jobs and sent them to the senior industrial control engineers who maintain broad access to critical industrial control systems, the government report said.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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