Sunday, August 8, 2010

Securing software for nuclear power plants

It’s 10 PM. Do you know what the computers at your reactor are doing right now?

critical-digital-assetsIn an often cited incident, in January 2003 the Davis Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio was affected by the “Slammer” computer worm for five hours. Although the plant was shut down at the time, and a redundant system safety system was not affected, the incident raised concerns across the nuclear industry about the arcane field of computer cyber security.

The issue is of critical importance for new nuclear plants that will be built in the U.S. and globally. The renewed emphasis is due to the fact that control rooms will use digital systems to operate the plants. The fact that digital instrument and control systems are now state-of-the-art makes them targets for hackers from our nation’s enemies.

The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2009 that “cyber spies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid” and left behind software to take control of it. In May 2009 the Wall Street Journal reported that the nation’s power plants are being targeted by “well organized” efforts to break into control centers for the nation’s power plants and electric grids.

In both reports defense officials cite Russia and China as the source of the cyber stalking incidents. Diplomats from both countries denied the charges in statements to the WSJ.

Get the full story exclusively at Cool Hand Nuke, a nuclear energy jobs portal and a whole lot more.


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