At first-ever conference, UN takes aim at cyber-threats against nuclear safety

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano calls for a global response to cyber threats against nuclear facilities during an address in Vienna on 1 June 2015. Photo: IAEA/Dean Calma

1 June 2015 – The international community must intensify efforts to protect the world’s nuclear facilities from cyberattacks, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog declared today as he opened the Organization’s first-ever conference on the issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna.

Sounding the alarm in front of more than 650 experts from 92 member States, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the inaugural International Conference on Computer Security in a Nuclear World sent “an important message” that the world is finally “serious about protecting nuclear and other radioactive material.”

“Reports of actual or attempted cyberattacks are now virtually a daily occurrence,” Mr. Amano affirmed, warning that the nuclear industry had not been immune from the global threat. “Last year alone, there were cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear power plants and of such facilities being specifically targeted.”

The threat of cybercrime and cyberattacks has been steadily growing over recent years and particularly in developing countries where criminals can exploit legal loopholes and weak security measures, according to recent findings by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Conference – organized in cooperation with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) – will run until 5 June and illustrate ways member States and stakeholders can better anticipate and protect themselves from cyber-attacks.

In addition, notes the IAEA on its website, member States will also address a range of issues pertaining to trends in cyberattack and defence, computer security management in nuclear security, computer security threat analysis, computer security for industrial control systems and operator experience in implementing computer security.

“Staff responsible for nuclear security should know how to repel cyber-attacks and to limit the damage if systems are actually penetrated,” Mr. Amano continued.

“The IAEA is doing what it can to help governments, organizations, and individuals adapt to evolving technology-driven threats from skilled cyber adversaries.”


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