Feds quiz former worker over Texas power plant hack

Danger danger! High voltage!


A former employee at a Texas power utility was arrested late last week over accusations he crippled its energy forecast system after launching a hacking attack.

FBI agents made the arrest on Thursday after raiding the home of Dong Chul Shin, a former worker at Energy Future Holdings. EFH owns three Texas electricity generating outfits that run facilities including the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant. Dong was dismissed back in March over allegations he failed to pull his weight at work.

Hours after the no-notice sacking, Dong's VPN access account (which was left active) was allegedly used to log into the corporate intranet before modifying and deleting files. Proprietary company information was also transferred to a personal webmail account linked to Dong, investigators further allege.

Emails sent to engineers at the Comanche Peak nuclear reactor during this hack questioned the safety of the reactor if the load were to be "increased to 99.7 per cent of capacity". Dong's role included controlling the management of EFH power generation facilities, including the Comanche Peak reactor.

Dong faces accusations that the hacking attack he allegedly carried out created a threat to public health or safety. However, charges detailed so far only involve less serious charges that Dong's actions crippled an energy forecast system for a day back on 4 March, specifically an Excel file, leaving EFH unable to sell excess capacity and resulting in losses of $26,000.

This type of an attack wouldn't lead to an outage much less imperil plant safety, control system security expert Joe Weiss told Wired. "The people in Texas aren’t going to see their lights flicker as a result of this. This is an economic issue," Weiss said. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading
  • To multicloud, or not: Former PayPal head engineer weighs in
    Not everyone needs it, but those who do need to consider 3 things, says Asim Razzaq

    The push is on to get every enterprise thinking they're missing out on the next big thing if they don't adopt a multicloud strategy.

    That shove in the multicloud direction appears to be working. More than 75 percent of businesses are now using multiple cloud providers, according to Gartner. That includes some big companies, like Boeing, which recently chose to spread its bets across AWS, Google Cloud and Azure as it continues to eliminate old legacy systems. 

    There are plenty of reasons to choose to go with multiple cloud providers, but Asim Razzaq, CEO and founder at cloud cost management company Yotascale, told The Register that choosing whether or not to invest in a multicloud architecture all comes down to three things: How many different compute needs a business has, budget, and the need for redundancy. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022