Spanish Police Arrested 2 Nuclear Power Employees for Hacking Radiation Alert System

Spain Nabs Two For Allegedly Hacking Radiation Alert System

Spanish police have confirmed arresting two nuclear power employees suspected of hacking Spain’s radioactivity alert network (RAR) operated by the country’s General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies (DGPCE).

Spanish law enforcement agency, Policía Nacional, has arrested two individuals for their alleged involvement in a cyberattack on Spain’s radioactivity alert network (RAR) in March-June 2021.

Arrest Details

Spanish police confirmed arresting two suspects for hacking the RAR network operated by the country’s General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies (DGPCE). Reportedly, the detained individuals are ex-employees of a third-party contractor tasked to perform system maintenance. 

What is RAR Network?

For your information, the RAR is a gamma radiation sensors network, while the DGPCE operates nuclear power plants and monitors radiation levels in Spain through these sensors. The RAR network comprises eight hundred gamma radiation detection sensors, which are installed in different parts of Spain for the timely detection of spikes in radioactivity levels.

Cyberattack Incident and Investigation

The detainees targeted the computer systems and caused the sensors to malfunction. The hackers disabled over one-third of the sensors monitored/maintained by the GDPCE. The Spanish police launched an investigation in June 2021 after the Directorate notified the National Police Cyberattacks group. It was dubbed Operation GAMMA.

The investigation team identified that the intrusion was performed in two stages. First, the suspects gained unauthorized control of the DGPCE’s computer systems to delete a web application that managed the RAR system.

During the second stage, they targeted over 300 out of 800 sensors over 3 months. This caused connectivity failures between the sensors and the control centers. Eventually, their radioactivity levels detection capacity was considerably reduced. It is alleged that the hackers operated via a Madrid-based public hospitality network.

“They had a deep knowledge that made it easier for them to carry out the attacks and helped them in their efforts to mask their authorship, significantly increasing the difficulty of the investigation.”

Policía Nacional España

The motive behind this attack is yet not confirmed by the police.

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