Hackers Steal Data from Japanese Nuclear Facility

Hackers recently stole research data from the University of Toyama’s Hydrogen Isotope Research Center, along with 1,493 people’s personal information, Infosecurity reports.

The data was stolen in December 2015, March 2016, and June 2016, using malware that had been delivered via a spear phishing attack in November 2015.

The Japan Times reports that two staff members received phishing emails in November of 2015. One of the staff members’ PCs was infected, after which it transmitted data to an outside party for approximately six months.

The Research Center didn’t learn of the infection until it was alerted to it in June 2016 by an unidentified outside organization.

Still, the Japan Times reports that most of the stolen research data had already been published or was scheduled to be published, and that no highly confidential information was exposed.

“This issue of cyber attacks on nuclear-related facilities or activities should be taken very seriously,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Yukiya Amano told Reuters earlier this month. “We know if we know everything or if it’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Amano said an unnamed nuclear power plant had been hit by a cyber attack two to three years ago that forced the plant “to take some precautionary measures.”

Seclore CEO Vishal Gupta told eSecurity Planet by email that the University of Toyama breach is also a textbook example of the kind of threat facing academia. “Researchers are extremely lucrative targets for nation-states, as it’s cheaper to invest in the theft of existing data then to conduct the research outright,” he said.univers

“As a result, academics must take steps to assure their work is safeguarded, especially when they are conducting nuclear research (which is prohibited in all but a handful of countries),” Gupta added. “Persistent security controls that work at the data level are needed in order to assure well intentioned research doesn’t end up in malicious hands.”

A recent Enterprise Strategy Group survey, sponsored by Gigamon, found that 85 percent of network and security-focused IT professionals said the complexity of network security operations is as difficult as or more difficult than it was two years ago, primarily due to increased traffic, more connected devices, and the increasing diversity of security threats.

Seventy-five percent of respondents felt their organization’s network visibility could be improved.

“Organizations are finding it more difficult to gain visibility into their networks and are left to grapple with the difficult task of quickly detecting anomalous or malicious activity,” Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Don Conde said in a statement.

Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman has been a technology journalist for more than 20 years and an eSecurity Planet contributor since 2009.

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