"Data storm" blamed for nuclear-plant shutdown
By: Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus
A Congressional committee calls for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to further investigate the cause of excessive network traffic that shut down an Alabama nuclear plant.
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"Conversations between the Homeland Security Committee staff and the NRC representatives suggest that it is possible that this incident could have come from outside the plant," Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Subcommittee Chairman James R. Langevin (D-RI) stated in the letter. "Unless and until the cause of the excessive network load can be explained, there is no way for either the licensee (power company) or the NRC to know that this was not an external distributed denial-of-service attack."
The August 2006 incident is the latest network threat to affect the nation's power utilities. In January 2003, the Slammer worm disrupted systems of Ohio's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, but did not pose a safety risk because the plant had been offline since the prior year. However, the incident did prompt a notice from the NRC warning all power plant operators to take such risks into account.
In August 2003, nearly 50 million homes in the northeastern U.S. and neighboring Canadian provinces suffered from a loss of power after early warning systems failed to work properly, allowing a local outage to cascade across several power grids. A number of factors contributed to the failure, including a bug in a common energy management system and the MSBlast, or Blaster, worm which quickly spread among systems running Microsoft Windows, eventually claiming more than 25 million systems.