The Aurora Vulnerability and the Risk for Nuclear Power Plants

In February, an experienced nuclear engineer concluded on the cyber security portal Infosec Island a non-neglectable risk of a potential cyber attack, which, under certain circumstances, could cause a core melt. Due to the contribution, the so-called “Aurora Vulnerability” lies in the alternative current (AC) motors that run the emergency core cooling system, and which can be targeted and destroyed with a cyber attack, once they are needed and operational.

Referring to the Fukushima incident, the author illustrated that “emergency core cooling may be needed for a significant period of time,” which would be hard to hide from the public, and thus from potential cyber attackers. With such a risk being “certainly more probable than once in a million years,” which marks the threshold for safety analyses to address specific threats, the author posed the following questions:

Why haven’t the nuclear plant operators implemented the fix for protecting their own business assets?
Why has the NRC not mandated the fix for safety reasons?
Why is IAEA not addressing this threat?

 

In 2007, CNN reported on “Aurora”, an experimental cyber attack that caused a generator to self-destruct. According to the news outlet, it alarmed the federal government and the electrical industry “about what might happen if such an attack were carried out on a larger scale,” raising awareness on the potential of cyber attacks on the energy critical infrastructure sector. Former contributor Zach touched on “Aurora”, when he blogged in 2011 on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) research on the potential impacts of cyber attacks on industrial control systems at the Idaho National Laboratory.

 

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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