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The Security Index Journal: Olga Mikhailova on the importance of cyber threats to nuclear security

04.07.2016

MOSCOW, JULY 4, 2016. PIR PRESS "Theoretically speaking, unexpected stubbornness of a nuclear power plant’s systems responsible for operation of a nuclear facility, processing of nuclear material and safety features designed to prevent accidents can lead to events with consequences comparable to the Chernobyl disaster," — Olga Mikhailova, a nuclear security consultant.

The developments of recent years confirm that a cyberattack is one of the most effective ways of sabotaging a nuclear facility: one can recall the Stuxnet incident at the Iranian complex for uranium enrichment at Natanz. Therefore, nuclear security and nuclear material security measures at nuclear power plants will be incomplete without proper cybersecurity efforts. Moreover, a nuclear facility or any of its systems may not be necessarily connected to the Internet to become a target for an attack. Because of the widespread access to the information technologies both a state and a non-state actor with terrorist purposes in mind can become an attacker.

Is it possible to protect the nuclear power plants from cyberthreats and what are the implications of a successful attack? The article "Cyberthreats and Nuclear Security" (the article is available in Russian) by a nuclear security consultant Olga Mikhailova aims to provide answers to these and many other questions.

The paper examines the concept of nuclear security, lists objects, which it preserves, and outlines the main types of cyberattacks against each of them. According to the expert: "Providing nuclear security at nuclear facilities includes prevention, detection and suppression of theft of nuclear material; sabotage of nuclear facilities that threatens the health or life of people as a result of exposure to radiation or leads to radioactive contamination of the environment; illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear materials and facilities".

The author lists the main aspects and approaches to cybersecurity. She also examines the state of the existing legal framework that regulates issues of nuclear security (both Russian and international, provided by the IAEA). Moreover, the paper focuses on the shortcomings of the Russian legal system: "Currently Russian instruments lack a coherent set of requirements and recommendations which experts could use in order to mainstream the nuclear security significant cyberthreats".

According to Olga Mikhailova, "Theoretically speaking, unexpected stubbornness of a nuclear power plant’s systems responsible for operation of a nuclear facility, processing of nuclear material and safety features designed to prevent accidents can lead to events with consequences comparable to the Chernobyl disaster".

The article will be published in the next issue of the Security Index Journal №1 (116) 2016.

For all questions related to the “Security Index” journal, Editor-in-Chief Olga Mostinskaya is available at +7 (495) 987 19 15 or via email at mostinskaya at pircenter.org.

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