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South Korea finds further evidence of cyber-infiltration at nuclear plant

05 January 2015

South Korea’s energy minister tried to reassure parliament on January 5 that a “low risk” worm which infected computer systems at a nuclear plant did not affect reactor controls. Yoon Sang-jick told a parliamentary session last week that the worm was probably introduced by workers via infected and unauthorized USB devices.

Stock image
Stock image

However, he maintained that the control systems of the facilities housing the reactors were not connected to external networks and therefore safe, according to Reuters.

He claimed the incident was unrelated to a hacking attack earlier in December on operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co (KHNP). That led to non-critical data being stolen and a Twitter message by someone claiming to be the attacker threatening to shut down three reactors.

However, lawmakers were dubious about Yoon’s claims and called for additional safety measures.

The new admission of security concerns comes just days after the state-run operator conducted a two-day cyber-attack drill at South Korea’s four nuclear plants, which supply around a third of the country’s electricity.

KHNP responded to concerns by promising to increase the number of cybersecurity staff from 53 to around 70 and set up a committee to oversee the matter peopled by internal and external experts.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said in January that the North Korean military's cyber army has boosted its numbers to 6,000 troops, double Seoul's estimate for the force in 2013, and is working to cause "physical and psychological paralysis" in the South.

The new figure, disclosed in a ministry white paper, comes after the United States, South Korea's key ally, imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. Pyongyang has denied involvement in the attack.

Its long-term target may be telecoms and energy grids in rival nations, defectors from the isolated state said. In 2013, South Korea blamed the North for crippling cyber-attacks that froze the computer systems of its banks and broadcasters for days.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war for more than six decades as the Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.


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