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IAEA’s Amano Calls for Strengthened Computer Security in a Nuclear World

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

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, speaking today at the opening of an International Conference on Computer Security in a Nuclear World at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters, called for an international response to tackle the global threat posed by criminals and terrorists bent on launching cyberattacks against nuclear facilities.

While nuclear security is a national responsibility, the IAEA plays the central role in helping the world to act in unison against the threat of nuclear terrorism, Mr Amano said in his remarks at the opening session. “Terrorists and other criminals operate international networks and could strike anywhere,” he said. “So the response must also be international.”

The 1-5 June conference, the first of its kind to be held at the IAEA, has attracted more than 650 experts from 92 Member States and 17 regional and international organizations. Organised 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), the conference includes representatives of nuclear regulators and plant operators, law enforcement, system and security vendors.

Addressing the conference participants, Mr Amano said: “Your presence here sends the important message that the international community is serious about protecting nuclear and other radioactive material – and associated activities and facilities – from malicious acts which are either computer–based, or targeted at computers.”

  The conference’s aim is to provide a forum for sharing information and experiences and enhancing cooperation as part of global efforts to protect nuclear installations and materials and associated facilities from cyberattacks. Issues to be addressed during the meeting include computer security from a national perspective, 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.

Reports of actual or attempted cyberattacks have become an almost daily occurrence around the world, and “the nuclear industry has not been immune,” Mr Amano said. “Last year alone, there were cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear power plants, and of such facilities being specifically targeted.”

A highlight of the weeklong gathering will be a computer security demonstration. Held on the conference’s opening day, the demonstration will provide a scenario to illustrate ways in which an adversary might attack a nuclear facility and explore methods for mitigating such an event. The demonstration, orchestrated by experts from organisations including the U.S. Department of Energy and the Canadian computer security firm Lofty Perch, will serve to guide discussion throughout the rest of the week.

The conference should bring about increased awareness of the best practices in tackling threats, of the international security guidance and industry standards, and of operator experiences in implementing computer security, according Khammar Mrabit, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security. The gathering will also facilitate “an exchange of information, lessons learned and ideas that we need to enhance nuclear security globally” and identify additional areas where the IAEA can help States, upon request, to develop “comprehensive computer security programmes within their national security regimes,” Mrabit said in his opening address to the conference.

Last update: 26 Jul 2017

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