Senior staff at Sellafield, Britain's most hazardous nuclear site, for almost a decade covered up that cyber groups closely linked to Russia and China hacked into its computer networks, an investigation by The Guardian revealed on Monday.
It is likely that hackers accessed the highest levels of confidential material at the nuclear site, which has more than 11,000 workers, sprawls across two square miles, and is one of the world's most hazardous, with the largest store of plutonium in the world, according to sources.
This means that some of the site's most sensitive activities — transferring radioactive waste, monitoring for leaks of dangerous material, and checking for fire — may have been compromised, The Guardian learned during its yearlong probe into the matter.
The site also stores emergency planning documents to be used if the United Kingdom comes under foreign attack or has to deal with a disaster.
Although it is not clear when Sellafield's IT systems were first compromised, sources said breaches were detected at least as far back as 2015.
At that point, experts realized sleeper malware had been embedded in Sellafield’s computer networks.
Sources at the Office for Nuclear Regulation watchdog group last year placed Sellafield into a form of “special measures” for consistent failures on cybersecurity, according to The Guardian. The watchdog is also reportedly in the process of trying to prosecute individuals at Sellafield for cyber failings.
The ONR confirmed that Sellafield is failing to meet its cyber standards, but did not comment on the breaches or allegations of a “cover-up.”
Sellafield also did not comment on its failure to inform regulators of the breaches, instead focusing on improvements it claims to have made in recent years.
Brian Freeman ✉
Brian Freeman, a Newsmax writer based in Israel, has more than three decades writing and editing about culture and politics for newspapers, online and television.
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