US, UK will test nuclear plants with fake cyberattacks

US, UK will test nuclear plants with fake cyberattacks
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The United States and Britain on Friday revealed a plan to launch fake cyberattacks against their nuclear power plants next year in an effort to bolster what experts worry are insufficient digital defenses.

The announcement came as part of the Nuclear Security Summit taking place in Washington, D.C., this week. The exercise is a subset of a series of broad commitments many countries made during the two-day summit to bolster cybersecurity at nuclear sites around the world.

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"As part of our work today, we agreed to keep strengthening our nuclear facilities' defenses against cyberattacks," Obama said during a press conference Friday evening.

The joint U.S.-United Kingdom exercise will show the two sides “how Britain and America can work together in the event of such a security threat," the British government said in a release.

The stress test will resemble a joint endeavor from last year, when the U.S. and United Kingdom peppered their financial sector with cyberattacks to gauge preparedness.

Security specialists say nuclear power plants are becoming a top target for hackers.

And the threat is not hypothetical. A South Korean nuclear plant was infiltrated in 2014 by hackers with suspected ties to North Korea. The breach exposed sensitive data but did not endanger the plant’s reactors.

Still, the incident raised fears that such attacks could soon affect other countries.

Cybersecurity has not been a focus of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, which brought together over 50 world leaders.

But the topic is receiving increasing attention in countries looking to protect their nuclear stockpiles and nuclear facilities.

Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, discussing the progress made since last year’s summit in his home country, highlighted cybersecurity.

“In the past few months alone, new ‘gift baskets’ have been added on complex issues like cybersecurity and insider threats,” he said, using the term for a series of joint pledges countries make related to the nuclear summits.

One gift basket announced on Friday included commitments to establish guidelines promoting good “cyber hygiene” measures, including better digital monitoring and restricted access to key networks. Twenty-seven countries signed on to the agreement.