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South Korea nuclear company to tighten cyber security after hack

18 December 2014

The South Korean nuclear plant operator Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co (KHNP) is to conduct drills testing its ability to withstand a cyber-attack, after a series of data leaks and online threats from December 15. Designs and manuals of plant equipment owned by KHNP were put online by an unknown individual or group. 

Stock image
Stock image

A threat was also made that unless three reactors were closed by Christmas, people should "stay away" from them.

KHNP, the sole nuclear operator in Korea, is part of the state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp. It said the leaked data did not compromise the safety of its facilities but that it would nevertheless conduct a series of large-scale drills at four nuclear power plants on December 22 and 23.

There has been a series of postings of leaked material since 15 December 15, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said. These have included information on the facilities' air conditioning and cooling systems, a radiation exposure report, and personal data of employees.

Authorities said a probe into the hacking and leak of internal documents had been launched.
However, the company has said that the information does not relate to core technologies. The South Korean government told the BBC that the central operating systems of the reactors had not been hacked. South Korea's energy ministry said it was confident that its nuclear plants could block any infiltration by cyber attackers that could compromise the safety of the reactors.

"It's our judgment that the control system itself is designed in such a way and there is no risk whatsoever," Chung Yang-ho, deputy energy minister, told Reuters by phone.

KHNP operates 23 nuclear reactors and supplies about 30% of the country's electricity.
It is not known if this cyber-attack is in any way related to an incident last month when Sony Pictures was hacked and unreleased films put online.

The US says North Korea was behind the attack. Pyongyang has denied this and has called for a joint investigation.

South Korea has in the past blamed North Korea for hacks on banks, government websites and broadcasters, and both countries are still technically at war with each other.

Seoul prosecutors are conducting a criminal probe into the leak of data from KHNP, including blueprints of some nuclear reactors, electricity flow charges and radiation exposure estimates.

They have traced the IP used for a blog carrying the stolen documents to an online user in a southern city who has denied knowledge about the postings and claimed his user ID has been stolen.

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