Cyber-attacks against industrial systems have become an increasing concern in recent years and the Norsk Hydro Breach disclosed on Tuesday, March 19th is a worrying example of just how severe the repercussions can resonate in a very short span of time.
Background on Norsk Hydro Breach
Governments and businesses worldwide have become increasingly concerned with the potential damage that cyber criminals can cause to industrial system and critical national infrastructure following a significant number of high impact cyber-attacks in the last several years.
In 2017, attacks (WannaCry) subsequently blamed by the U.S. Government on North Korea cost 150 countries, worldwide, a combined financial loss of approximately $4 billion, affecting over 230,000 computer systems.
Meanwhile, attacks widely believed to be Russian in origin took out the equivalent of 20% of the power capacity of an electric transmission station located north of Kiev in what was considered to be only a “test run” of the potential impacts.
In 2018, attacks believed to be originated in Chennai, India, targeted Italian oil and gas services company Saipem taking out a number of servers in its infrastructure,
Norsk Hydro Breach: What We Know
Norsk Hydro has been forced to shut down several of their metal extrusion plants, which transform ingots (blocks of solid metal) into components for car makers, builders and other industries; while it’s smelters in countries including Brazil, Norway and Qatar are being operated under strict manual control. While this may serve as a temporary fix, Norsk Hydro advises that it’s smelting plants rely heavily on its digital systems to ensure operational efficiency.
The attack itself, which began late Monday evening, and intensified overnight, affected the company’s IT systems for most production activities.
In a brief statement, the company surmises that they are working to contain and neutralize the attack, however, they do not yet know the full extent of the situation. They can, nevertheless, confirm that the attack had no impact on its staff, although it’s impact on customers is still too early to assess.
Hydro spokesman, Halvor Molland, describes the attack as being “of a magnitude we haven’t seen before,” stating that the attack started as a series of “disruptions” within Hydro’s networks, followed shortly thereafter by problems with management systems.
Resulting Impact: So far…
This event represents an exceptionally rare case affecting industrial operations in Norway. Moreover, the last publicly acknowledged cyberattack in Norway occurred when hackers working on behalf of Chinese intelligence breached the Norwegian software firm, Visma, to steal secrets from clients.
News of the attack has driven aluminum prices up 1.2% on the London Metal Exchange, increasing from $1,935 to $1,944 a tonne and is expected to have financial impacts on the stock value going forward.
Norsk Hydro employs 36,000 in 40 different countries around the globe with recorded sales approaching $23 billion last year. With their website down, Norsk continues to provide updates on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
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