Will nuclear breaches melt down information sharing?

While cybersecurity and nuclear experts say the recently disclosed cyber breaches do not pose a risk to nuclear safety, the fallout could be that critical infrastructure firms grow more reluctant to share cyberthreat information with the government.

broken lock
 

Cybersecurity and nuclear power experts have been quick to say that recently disclosed cyber intrusions at power plants do not pose a public safety risk. Yet experts and former officials say the potential fallout is that information sharing between critical infrastructure owners and the government could melt down.

The New York Times and Bloomberg first reported that on June 28, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI sent out an alert to power providers that there were ongoing cyber intrusions at a number of facilities dating back at least a month.

According to the Times, the still-unidentified attackers were using sophisticated spear-phishing campaigns targeting senior control engineers in an attempt to steal credentials.

"Any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks," DHS told FCW in an email statement.

Nuclear Energy Institute Vice President Joseph Pollock added, "safety and control systems at nuclear power plants are not connected to business networks or the internet."

Federal regulations require a nuclear power plant to provide notice to the government within hours of the detection of a cyber intrusion that either poses an immediate safety threat or could pose such a threat. In this case, the intrusions did not rise to the level of triggering the reporting requirement, and in fact that protocol has never been triggered since it was instituted in 2015, said officials at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Both NEI and DHS said there are ongoing operations to secure the computers and systems affected by the intrusions. But former officials say the government also has damage control to do on the information-sharing front.

In the initial alert sent to the power sector, DHS mentioned one affected nuclear plant, Wolf Creek near Burlington, Kan., by name. That goes against protocols designed to strip out or anonymize information about victims of cyber incidents.

"That is the kind of thing the private sector complains about," said former White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel. He said that from his experience, the government doesn't have a history of leaking personal information, and in fact it is usually the private sector that does.

"[This disclosure] is sort of the exception that proves the rule," said Daniel, who is now president of the Cyber Threat Alliance.

Given the vast amount of private infrastructure and limited resources of the government, Daniel said information sharing is critically important, and both sides must work together in the face of growing cyber threats.

While the NEI said there is robust information sharing between the government and industry, other critical infrastructure sectors have expressed concerns that the government over-classifies information and does not share relevant data in a timely fashion, and often does not provide context that is needed by industry.

Many in the private sector have stated that they simply do not trust the government, in particular DHS, to protect sensitive information.

"Trust is an obstacle in all types of information sharing relationships and that includes industry and government when stakeholders aren’t familiar with each other," said Ryan Gillis, a vice president at Palo Alto Networks and a former NSC cybersecurity official.

"DHS is going to have to take a look at the quality control process and figure out how to try to keep continuing to improve that so it doesn't happen again," said Daniel.

"This could make it harder to recruit new partners for sure," said a former DHS senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I don't think it will change existing relationships, but sadly programs like [automated information sharing] need to grow to be successful and sustained."

"The timing of this kind of flub is bad," said the former official, who added that this will likely result in oversight committees "asking pointed questions around protecting sources."

DHS was unable to provide FCW an explanation why it disclosed Wolf Creek's name in violation of its protocols, or to detail the steps being taken to prevent future releases of personal information.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.