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Britain’s nuclear stations, airports on terror alert

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-04-2017 PTI

London: Britain’s nuclear power stations and airports have been instructed to “remain resilient” against potential terrorist attacks, amid fears that their systems may be targeted by hackers, according to a media report.

Security services have issued a series of alerts in the past 24 hours, warning that terrorists may have developed ways of bypassing safety checks, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

Intelligence agencies believe ISIS and other terrorist groups may have developed methods of planting explosives in mobile phones and laptops that can evade airport security screening methods. It was this intelligence which is understood to have led the US and the UK to ban travellers from a number of countries carrying laptops and large electronic devices on board. Now there are concerns that terrorists will use the techniques to bypass screening devices at European and US airports, the paper said.

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There were also fears that computer hackers were trying to bypass nuclear power station security measures, it said. Security services fear that some will nonetheless try to exploit “vulnerabilities” in the nuclear industry’s internet defences.

Energy minister Jesse Norman said the government was “fully committed to defending the UK against cyber threats, with a £1.9 billion investment designed to transform this country’s cyber security.” But the threat of attack on Britain’s 15 operational reactors, which account for nearly a fifth of the country’s electricity, from terrorists, foreign spies and “hacktivists” remains high.

Norman said the civil nuclear strategy published in February sets out ways to ensure that the civil nuclear sector “can defend against, recover from, and remain resilient to evolving cyber threats.”

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, an independent think tank for defence and security, said that it was crucial for the Government to “respond rapidly”. “The potential threats are wide-ranging and are coming from government and non-government sources,” the paper quoted him as saying. “Crucially there has to be clear co-operation with the private sector to tackle this, especially as airports are usually in private hands,” he added.

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