New Delhi: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Wednesday confirmed that malware was detected at state-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd’s (NPCIL) Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in September.

This information regarding India’s largest nuclear power plant was provided by Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), and MoS in charge of Atomic Energy and Space, in a written reply in Lok Sabha today.

State-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd, or NPCIL runs India’s fleet of 22 commercial nuclear power reactors with an installed capacity of 6,780 megawatts (MW).

“A malware infection was identified in NPCIL KKNPP Internet connected system," Singh said according to a government statement.

The cyberattacks assume importance given the increased state of hostilities in the Indian subcontinent and India’s ambitious nuclear plans that include constructing a dozen new nuclear power reactors across the country, with a total power-generation capacity of 9,000 MW. While nine reactors totaling 6,700 MW are under construction, the Indian government has also given in-principle approval for setting up nuclear power capacities totaling 25,248 MW at Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Kowada (Andhra Pradesh), Chhaya Mithi Virdi (Gujarat), Haripur (West Bengal), and Bhimpur (Madhya Pradesh).

“There was an identification of a malware infection on KKNPP administrative network used for day to day administrative activities. The affected system contains data related to administrative function. Plant control and instrumentation system is not connected to any external network such as Intranet, Internet and administrative system," the statement added.

The detection of malware or malicious software in NPCIL’s system, responsible for running India’s nuclear reactors, comes against the backdrop of India’s power sector facing cyberattacks, with at least 30 events reported daily.

“The malware infection was not able to get access to the controls of the Nuclear Power Plant," the statement said and added, “Investigations have been carried out by the Computer & Information Security Advisory Group (CISAG) – DAE along with the national agency, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). The investigation concluded that the malware infection was limited to the administrative network of KKNPP."

CERT-In coordinates efforts on cybersecurity issues and is tasked with responding to cyberattacks, while the National Technical Research Organization is the elite technical intelligence agency.

A majority of the attacks originate from China, Singapore, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries. As such, there are growing concerns that the country’s power infrastructure could be the next target of terrorists looking to cripple its economy. The issue has assumed greater importance as India now has an integrated national power grid, with south India joining the national electricity grid in January 2014.

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