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Hackers hit aluminium maker Hydro, knock some plants offline

OSLO (Reuters) – Norsk Hydro, one of the world’s largest producers of aluminum, fought on Tuesday to contain a cyber attack against a part of its production, sending its shares lower, and aluminum prices are higher.

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 plants, which transform aluminum ingots into components for the auto-makers, builders, and other industries, while the giant smelters in countries such as Norway, Qatar and Brazil were operated by hand.

The attack started on Monday evening and escalated overnight, hitting the water power of the IT systems for most of its activities, and forcing employees to the problem of updates through social media.

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.

The quoting of a message that is sent by the NNSA, public broadcaster NRK said on its website the hackers had demanded ransom from Hydro to stop the attack, but the company has not confirmed this.

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

“Hydro Is working to contain and neutralize the attack, but does not yet know the full extent of the situation,” the company said in a statement.

It added that the attack did not affect the safety of its staff, and it was still too early to assess the impact on the customers.

News of the attack pushed aluminium prices to as much as 1.2 percent to a three-month high of $1,944 a ton in the beginning of trading on the London Metal Exchange, before giving up some gains to trade at $1,938 by 1253 GMT.

The event was a rare case of an attack on industrial activities in Norway. The last publicly acknowledged cyber attack in the Scandinavian country 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.

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

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.

“Some extrusion plants that are easy to stop and start have chosen to temporarily shut down the production,” said Hydro spokesperson.

The company’s hydro-electric power stations were running as normal on isolated IT systems are not affected by the outage.

Norsk Hydro’s website page is not available on Tuesday, although some of the web pages that belong to the subsidiaries can still be used. The company gave updates about the situation on her Facebook page.

“Hydro’s main priority now is to reduce the impact of the attack and the continuation of the people’s safety,” it wrote in a Facebook post.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Hydro shares fell 3.4 percent in early trading before a partial recovery to trade 0.4 percent by 1253 GMT. They were still behind the Oslo benchmark index, which was up 0.7 percent.

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.

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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