Slammer worm crashed Ohio nuke plant network

Wednesday, 20 August 2003, 2:46 PM EST

The Slammer worm penetrated a private computer network at Ohio's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in January and disabled a safety monitoring system for nearly five hours, despite a belief by plant personnel that the network was protected by a firewall, SecurityFocus has learned.

The breach did not post a safety hazard. The troubled plant had been offline since February, 2002, when workers discovered a 6-by-5-inch hole in the plant's reactor head. Moreover, the monitoring system, called a Safety Parameter Display System, had a redundant analog backup that was unaffected by the worm. But at least one expert says the case illustrates a growing cybersecurity problem in the nuclear power industry, where interconnection between plant and corporate networks is becoming more common, and is permitted by federal safety regulations.

The Davis-Besse plant is operated by FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio utility company that's become the focus of an investigation into the northeastern U.S. blackout last week.

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