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National infrastructure facility’s cyber security at risk

National infrastructure facility’s cyber security at risk

Posted December. 22, 2014 06:46,   


A self-claimed "chairman of anti-nuclear power plant group" again disclosed Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. Ltd. (KHNP)’s internal documents, including drawings for nuclear power plant (NPP) operation, on the Internet on Sunday. Although KHNP argued the released documents have no relation to the safety of nuclear power plant, it is hard to believe. Disclosure of the documents classified by KHNP itself as "confidential" is a critical threat against safety of nuclear power plant. The hacker group demanded to shut down Kori Unit 1, 3 and Wolsong Unit 2 from Christmas from Dec. 25. Concerns of the public are growing as the anti-NPP organization made a threat to make public 100,000 documents additionally, if the NPP operating corporation did not accept the demand.

Since internal documents are revealed four times on Dec. 15, KHNP has shown pathetic security awareness and risk responsiveness. A blogger who claimed himself as "head of Korean office of anti-nuclear power plant group" left a message intending to attack, KHNP ignored the message on the day, saying, “It is not possible (for the corporation) to respond to every unconfirmed acts of an individual blogger.” Two days later on Dec. 17, the blogger released personal information of 10,799 KHNP employees on the web and additionally disclosed drawings of piping installation and systems with major components in the nuclear power plant. After the situation became serious, KHNP belatedly requested the prosecution for a probe. It is easy to figure out that the state-run company’s security awareness has been quite poor.

Repercussions would be beyond imagination when a disaster or terror attack hits a nuclear power plant. It would be a quite serious situation if power supply is cut off, but even worse, the fact that a nuclear power plant is attacked generates fear of radioactivity leakage, resulting in social chaos. That is why all nations categorize nuclear power plants as a class 1 security facility and protect them with iron clad security.

The Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry’s audit on security practices at KHNP conducted from September to November found that 19 employees at Hanbit and Kori nuclear power plants gave internal system IDs and passwords to some staff of suppliers. For a reason that it is too tired to open a door every time to the service providing contractors, such as cafeteria cooks and waste treatment workers, KHNP employees gave their own system IDs and passwords. Considering such poor security awareness of individual plant employees, it came as no surprise that data in PCs was hacked.

The hacker is suspected to be an anti-nuclear activist who knows well about internal situation of the nuclear power plant since the offender excluded Kori Unit 2 from the list of nuclear power plants to be shut down on the ground that its outage is conducted ahead of schedule. However, a possibility of North Korea`s cyber attack cannot be ruled out. The fact that a nuclear power plant can be under a cyber-attack increases feeling of insecurity. In March of 2013, financial companies including Shinhan Bank and Nonghyup, and some broadcasting stations including KBS were hacked. The government had made a commitment to enhance cyber security after the incident, but the threat against nuclear power plants shows the government’s promise was an empty one.