Aluminium Maker Hydro Goes Old School After Ransomware Attack

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Huge Norwegian aluminium producer switches to ‘manual operations’ after damaging ransomware attack

A large Norwegian manufacturing firm has had to close its website and IT operations and go old school by resorting to manual processes for its factories.

It comes after a devastating ransomware attack crippled Norsk Hydro, one of the world’s largest producers of aluminium.

As of Wednesday afternoon, its website was still offline, and the firm has been forced to use Facebook to provide updates to the world.

Ransomware attack

The firm confirmed via Facebook that it had suffered an “extensive cyber-attack that hit on Tuesday.”

“Hydro’s technical team, with external support, has succeeded in detecting the root cause of the problems and is currently working to validate the plan and process to restart the company’s IT systems in a safe and sound manner,” said the firm. “However, it is still not clear how long it might take restore stable IT operations.”

When Hydro became aware that it was subject to an extensive cyber-attack, it “isolated all plants and operations and switched to manual operations and procedures. The main priority continues to be to ensure safe operations and limit operational and financial impact.”

“I’m pleased to see that we are making progress, and I’m impressed to see how colleagues worldwide are working around the clock with dedication to resolve this demanding situation and ensure safe and sound operations,” said Hydro’s CFO Eivind Kallevik.

“I would also like to complement our external technical partners who have done an important job in supporting our efforts, and also relevant authorities, who handle the issue with the diligence it deserves,” Kallevik added.

The firm said that most of its operations are running, but it cannot provide a “full overview of the timeline towards normal operations, and it is still to early to estimate the exact operational and financial impact.”

Hydro is one of the world’s largest producers of aluminium but also runs power stations and other divisions. It employs more than 35,000 people in 40 countries.

According to the BBC, notices have been posted at some Hydro’s offices, ordering staff not to log in to their computers.

Hydro’s staff around the world are instead said to be using mobile phones and tablets to access email, and at some factories workers are using printed order lists.

But it is reported that Hydro’s main smelting plants are offline at some locations, due to computerised controls systems being switched off.

Industrial targets

Attacks against industrial targets are nothing new.

In 2014 for example, a blast furnace at a steelworks in Germany was badly damaged by a cyber attack. That attack resulted in “massive damage to machinery” at the unnamed German steel mill.

Researchers have previously warned that security weaknesses in industrial control systems could allow hackers to create cataclysmic failures in infrastructure.

The United States has for example already passed legislation that would protect its electricity grid from cyber attacks.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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