Aluminium maker Hydro battles to contain ransomware attacks

OSLO (Reuters) – Norsk Hydro, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, fought on Tuesday to contain a cyber attack that halted parts of the production, the most recent example of the damage that hackers can cause to the business and the industry.

A sign warning employees not to connect devices to the network in the wake of a cyber-attack is seen at the headquarters of aluminium producer Norsk Hydro in Oslo, Norway, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gwladys Fouche

The company has concluded a number of metal extrusion and hot-rolled products of plants, which transform aluminum ingots into components for the auto-makers, builders, and other industries, while the giant smelters in Norway were to a large extent, use of a guide base.

“This is a classic ransomware attack,” Chief Financial Officer Eivind Kallevik told a press conference, adding that the company had not established that the hackers. “The situation is very serious.”

The Norwegian National Security Authority (NNSA), the government agency in charge of cybersecurity, said that the attack of a virus known as LockerGoga, a relatively new strain of so-called ransomware that encrypts files and demands payment to unlock them.

Kallevik, who could not turn on his desktop computer or to open files, would not say whether a certain sum was asked. However, when asked if the company planned to pay to unlock the systems, he said that the intention was to restore them from backup servers.

“We have a good back-up systems and we have plans on how to restore,” he said.

The attack began in the United States on Monday evening and escalated the night, the touch of IT systems in most of the activities of the company and the forcing of employees to issue updates via social media.

“It is still too early to indicate the operational and financial impact, as well as the timing of the situation to resolve,” Hydro said in a regulatory filing through the Oslo stock exchange.

However, Kallevik said the financial impact was limited until now.

“It is primarily a direct labour: some of the activities that we use computers to do, today we are going to make use of manual labour. We should add that there are even more people,” he told Reuters.

News of Hydro plant outages pushed up aluminum prices for a three-month high on the London Metal Exchange. The company’s shares fell as much 3.4 per cent for the restore of the trade 0.8 percent lower by 1438 GMT.

Related Coverage

  • Hackers demanded ransom money from Norsk Hydro to stop cyber-attack: NRK
  • Norway says Norsk Hydro has been exposed to LockerGoga ransomware attacks

The LockerGoga malware is not widely used by cyber gangs, cyber security researchers said, but is linked to an attack on the French engineering consultancy Altran Technologies in January.

Haakon Bergsjoe, head of the NNSA, the National Cyber Security Centre, said there were no reports of any other businesses affected on Tuesday. All the large Norwegian companies had been warned, in the aftermath of the attack on Hydro, he said to Reuters.

The last publicly acknowledged cyber attack in Norway was on the Visma software company, when hackers allegedly working on behalf of the Chinese intelligence violated its network to steal secrets from its customers.

Plant closures

Businesses and governments increasingly concerned about the damage hackers can cause to industrial systems and critical national infrastructure after a number of high-profile cyber-attacks.

In 2017, hackers later accused by the United States of working for the North Korean government unleashed billions of dollars of damages with the Wannacry ransomware virus, which crippled hospital, banks and other companies around the world.

Pyongyang denies the allegations.

Other cyber attacks cases, power grids and transport systems in recent years, and an attack on the Italian oil services firm Saipem at the end of last year destroyed more than 300 of the company’s computers.

Hydro products across the aluminium value chain, of the refinement of alumina raw material via metal rods to custom-made parts are used in cars and construction.

The company’s hydro-electric power stations were running as normal on isolated IT systems are not affected by the power failure was the alumina operation and smelters outside Norway, including in Qatar and Brazil, Hydro said.

Hydro, which has 36,000 employees in 40 countries, a net profit of 4.3 billion Norwegian crowns ($505 million) last year on sales of 159.4 billion.

Slideshow (4 Images)

At the headquarters in the suburbs of Oslo, the signs at the entrances warned employees not to log on THE system.

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Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis in Oslo, with Jack Stubbs and Barbara Lewis in London; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Holmes

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