A UK report warns that a serious cyber attack on nuclear power plants around the world is imminent, and that nuclear infrastructure is severely lacking in being able to defend against such attacks.
Chatham House think tank reported that most control systems at nuclear facilities were ‘insecure by design’ due to the out-dated designs.
The subsequent radiation of even a small attack, would do serious damage and have a ‘disproportionate effect’ on the public, the report warns.
BBC News reports:
Unfortunately, research carried out for the study showed that the UK’s nuclear plants and associated infrastructure were not well protected or prepared because the industry had converted to digital systems relatively recently.
This increasing digitisation and growing reliance on commercial software is only increasing the risks the nuclear industry faces.
There was a “pervading myth” that computer systems in power plants were isolated from the internet at large and because of this were immune to the kind of cyber attacks that have dogged other industries.
However, it said, this so-called “air gap” between the public internet and nuclear systems was easy to breach with “nothing more than a flash drive”. It noted that the destructive Stuxnet computer virus infected Iran’s nuclear facilities via this route.
The researchers for the report had also found evidence of virtual networks and other links to the public internet on nuclear infrastructure networks. Some of these were forgotten or simply unknown to those in charge of these organisations.
Already search engines that sought out critical infrastructure had indexed these links making it easy for attackers to find ways in to networks and control systems.
Keith Parker, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Security, including cyber security, is an absolute priority for power station operators.”
“All of Britain’s power stations are designed with safety in mind and are stress-tested to withstand a vast range of potential incidents,” he added. “Power station operators work closely with national agencies such as the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and other intelligence agencies to always be aware of emerging threats.”
In addition, said Mr Parker, the industry’s regulator continuously monitors plant safety to help protect it from any outside threats.