Westinghouse, McAfee to equip nuclear plants with new cybersecurity systems
Amid growing concern about cyber attacks on America’s infrastructure, Westinghouse Electric Corp. on Wednesday signed an agreement with an Intel Corp. subsidiary to provide cybersecurity software to nuclear power plant control systems around the world.
The agreement with McAfee Inc. means Westinghouse will offer systems to new and existing nuclear power plants, whether designed by Cranberry-based Westinghouse or a competitor. The companies did not disclose terms of their deal.
Large-scale systems known as supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems are critical to operation of facilities from water treatment plants to banks to power plants.
“But SCADA systems themselves have been very vulnerable to cyber attacks, such as denial of service or just about anything else you can do,” said E. Douglas Harris, executive director of the CyberSecurity and Emergency Preparedness Institute at the University of Texas, Dallas.
The government worked with the nuclear energy industry to make power plants “less vulnerable than other places,” he said, and they are safer than most industrial sites. “But there’s no perfect SCADA system that people can’t eventually break through,” said Harris. “The cyber criminals and cyber terrorists can always find a way.” The United States is home to 104 nuclear power plants, including 62 designed by Westinghouse or affiliate Combustion Engineering.
Most of them employ digital technology, which McAfee’s software serves, to control some or all systems, said a Westinghouse official.
Westinghouse digital instrumentation and control systems met Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines but this agreement “enables Westinghouse to now offer attack detection and prevention capabilities from an industry-leading cybersecurity company that our customers recognize and trust,” said David Howell, senior vice president of Westinghouse Nuclear Automation.
About 45 percent of the world’s 440 nuclear reactors are Westinghouse designs. The company employs about 14,000 people, including about 6,000 in Western Pennsylvania, mostly at its headquarters.
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