Skip to main content

Blackhat, Nuclear Energy and Cyber Security

While many of us were home for the holidays we couldn't escape the movie trailer for Blackhat, a cyber crime thriller directed by Michael Mann starring Chris Hemsworth. Set to premiere in the U.S. on January 16, the trailer includes a cyber attack on a nuclear power plant in China.



We've dealt with the issue of cyber security with some frequency here at NEI Nuclear Notes. I'd refer our readers back to a post written by NEI's Bill Gross almost two years ago that outlined industry actions in this area to mitigate against the possibility of a cyber attack (emphasis mine).
By December 31, 2012, each U.S. nuclear power plant has:
  • Isolated key control systems using either air-gaps or robust hardware based isolation devices. As a result, the key safety, security, and power generation equipment at the plants are protected from any network based cyber attacks originating outside the plant.
  • Enhanced and implemented robust controls over the use of portable media and equipment. Where devices like thumb drives, CD’s, and laptops are used to interface with plant equipment, measures are in place to minimize the cyber threat. These measures include such actions as: minimizing the use of devices that are not maintained at the plant; virus scanning devices both before and after being connected to plant equipment; and, implementing additional measures where the source of the data or device originates outside the plant. As a result, the plants are well protected from attacks like Stuxnet, that propagated through the use of portable media.
  • Enhanced defenses against the insider threat. Training and insider mitigation programs have been enhanced to include cyber attributes. Individuals who work with digital plant equipment are subject to increased security screening, cyber security training, and behavioral observation.
  • Implemented cyber security controls to protect equipment deemed most essential for the protection of the public health and safety. While full implementation of cyber security controls for all digital equipment requiring protection will take some time, plants have prioritized the implementation to cover the assets most essential to the public health and safety.
  • Implemented measures to maintain the effectiveness of the implemented portions of the program. These measures include maintaining the equipment described above in the plant configuration management program, ensuring changes to the equipment are performed in a controlled way. A cyber security impact analysis is performed before making changes to the equipment. The effectiveness of implemented cyber security controls is periodically assessed, and enhancements made where necessary. Vulnerability assessments are performed to ensure the cyber security posture of the equipment is maintained.
Despite these procedures, continued vigilance is key, something that's equally true for both cyber and physical security. In the meantime, we'll be keeping an eye on this film and screening it when it comes to theaters in the U.S. next week.

Comments

jimwg said…
Excellent feature to set science/tech illiterate reporters straight with. Shoot some copies out to every media outlet and news site. Stuff like this shouldn't nearly be a closed secret to blogs like this!

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Paul Deeds said…
From what I could see in the movie trailer, the producers confused the cooling tower which cools the non-radioactive turbine cooling water from the reactor containment building which houses the reactor and where the radioactivity and contamination are located. Further, how a cyber attack could damage a cooling tower as shown in the trailer, is beyond me.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…