June 13, 2018 Read More →

Coal, nuclear plants susceptible to cyberattacks, experts say


Bailing out nuclear and coal-fired power plants will not toughen the U.S. power grid against cyberattacks as the Trump administration claims, according to cyber experts, because hackers have a wide array of options for hitting electric infrastructure and nuclear facilities that are high-profile targets.

While the administration had been arguing for months that “fuel secure” facilities were important to America’s ability to rebound from storms and physical attacks, its efforts to link plant closures with protection from cyberattacks appeared to open a new front in its support for the coal and nuclear industries.

Chris Bronk, a professor of computer and information systems at the University of Houston, said he could not endorse the idea. “I don’t see where a policy of keeping open aging infrastructure that would shut unless there was federal markets intervention keeps us any safer from cyberattacks,” he said.

Bronk said coal plants, train deliveries and transmission systems are just as susceptible to hackers as gas pipelines, and added that, while nuclear facilities are tough targets, the stakes involved in a successful nuclear cyberattack are enormous – potentially involving an accident that leaks radioactivity and hits surrounding communities.

Sergio Caltagirone, the director of threat intelligence at cyber security company Dragos, agreed that bailing out nuclear and coal plants offers little protection. “I do not expect this policy shift to deliver any additional cyber security resilience based on the threats we’re actively monitoring,” Caltagirone said.

More: Trump’s coal, nuclear bailout no shield from hackers: cyber experts

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