Hackers Tried to Paralyze Nuclear Plants

      December 29, 2014 10:00

      Authorities investigating a hacking attack targeting Korea's nuclear power plants said Sunday that e-mails containing malware were sent to hundreds of workers at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. They were intended to destroy internal files and hard disks.

      The e-mails were sent to KHNP workers between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Dec. 9, while the malicious codes were designed to be activated at 11 a.m. on Dec. 10. The hackers e-mailed around 5,980 messages to one-third of KHNP's 9,500 staff.

      "The hackers appear to have planned to wreak havoc in the operation of nuclear plants by immobilizing the computers," an investigator said. "It's terrifying to think what would have happened if 3,000 computers were disabled simultaneously."

      KHNP discovered the malicious e-mails on Dec. 9 and deleted most of them, but four computers were apparently infected and their hard disks destroyed.

      Investigators analyzed around 30 computers belonging to nuclear plant workers in Wolseong and Gori and another computer from a subcontractor. Investigators also obtained a search warrant to look at the e-mail account of a retired KHNP worker whose ID was used to send the messages.

      Another investigator said, "It's too early to conclude that the hacking attack is over, since we don't know the overall intentions of the attackers. We're conducting further investigations in conjunction with Chinese authorities."

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