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Beware the USB memory stick – Computer virus found at German nuclear power plant

This certainly applies if you happen to work in a German nuclear power plant at least, as it appears that viruses have been found at the office computers, specifically used to model the movement of nuclear fuel rods.

The RWE nuclear plant is at Gundremmingen in Bavaria and German federal cyber investigators are now on the case and trying to analyse how the 18 USB devices that are used as removable data stores on office computers, came to be infected. The public have been reassured that the problem is purely internal and could not pose a threat to the plant or the public, because the viruses could not activate as they were not linked to the internet in any way.

The problem came to light as staff were preparing to upgrade the computerised control systems at a block which is currently not producing power whilst it is undergoing routine maintenance. Over 1000 computers have been checked and all are either free of the virus or have been cleared of it.

The viruses are two very well-known ones, W32.Ramnit and Conficker, Ramnit first came on the scene in 2010 used to steal data, Conflicker is an earlier one and is used to get hold of log in names and financial data, neither of these was successful as the systems were isolated from the internet.

Chief research officer at F-Secure, Mikko Hypponen, commented that chunks of a nation’s critical infrastructure were often infected by viruses but did little damage.