Feeds

Nuke watchdog issues cybergeddon alert

Plants at risk from hack attack

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency warned Friday of growing concern about cyber attacks against nuclear facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced in a statement that it is developing new guidelines aimed at combating the danger of computerized attacks by outside intruders or corrupt insiders: "For example, software operated control systems in a nuclear facility could be hacked or the software corrupted by staff with insider access," the group said.

The IAEA's new guidelines on "Security of Information Technology Related Equipment and Software Based Controls Against Malevolent Acts" are being finalized now, said the agency. The announcement came out of the agency's 48th annual general conference attended by 137 nations.

Last year, the Slammer worm penetrated a private computer network at Ohio's idled Davis-Besse nuclear plant and disabled a safety monitoring system for nearly five hours. The worm entered the plant network through an interconnected contractor's network, bypassing Davis-Besse's firewall.

News of the Davis-Besse incident prompted Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) last fall to call for US regulators to establish cyber security requirements for the 103 nuclear reactors operating in the US, specifically requiring firewalls and up-to-date patching of security vulnerabilities. By that time the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had already begun working on an official manual to guide plant operators in evaluating their cybersecurity posture.

But that document, finalized this month, "is not directive in nature", says Jim Davis, director of operations at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry association. "It does not establish a minimum level of security or anything like that. That isn't the purpose of the manual."

A related industry effort will establish management-level cyber security guidelines for plant operators, says Davis, who believes industry efforts are sufficient. "I think we are taking it seriously... and I think if the industry doesn't go far enough in this area we'll see more attention from regulators."

Neither the NRC manual nor the industry guidelines will be made public.

Separately, the NRC is working on a substantial revision of its regulatory guide, "Criteria for Use of Computers in Safety Systems of Nuclear Power Plants", which sets security and reliability criteria for installing new computerized safety systems in plants. It would replace the current guide, written in 1996, which is three pages long.

A working draft of the NRC guide reviewed by SecurityFocus would encourage plant operators to consider the effect of each new safety system on the plant's cyber security, and to develop response plans to deal with computer incidents. Additionally, it would urge vendors to maintain a secure development environment, and to probe their products for backdoors and logic bombs before shipping.

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

Related stories

UK stumps up £1.1m for cash-strapped nuke watchdog
Five lose jobs over nuke lab security debacle
US Emergency Alert System open to hack attack
US nuclear lab suspends secret work

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.