Information attack a 'provocation'

17 June 2008

Russian nuclear officials have reacted angrily to the third 'information attack' on their nuclear power operations. Police are investigating the many thousands of messages sent to spread false information and rumours. 


On 15 June, emails began to circulate with the subject An accident at Leningrad nuclear power plant. They appeared to come from the press service of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, and deceived recipients into believing they were official.


Later, the name of an environmental organization was used to spread false information about the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant, alleging that high levels of radiation had been detected in local rivers. The director of the group has since confirmed that his organisation had not been involved.


It was the second time both the plants had been attacked in this way. Leningrad was targeted on 21-22 May, while in July 2007 a campaign against Volgodonsk led to over 500,000 telephone calls to the emergency ministry and panic buying of canned food, red wine and iodine pills. Rosatom reported that the campaigns had involved emails, SMS messages and telephone calls which urged people to evacuate. A similar campaign was also launched against Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant in May this year.


Director general of the Rosatom company, Sergei Kiriyenko, said while visiting the Leningrad plant: "Calls, SMS messages, hacker attacks on the websites of Rosenergoatom and Leningrad - this was a well-planned provocation." He added that "Not all people like the dynamic development of our nuclear industry" but that "this is reality and we must learn to deal with it."


Police from Sosnovy Bor, near the Leningrad plant, said that they could be sure the calls did not originate in the local area. No specific legislation covers harrassment of this sort, but police have suggested they may use laws relating to the planning of terrorism or slander. Current investigations into the May event concerning Leningrad have been extended for 30 days.


Rosatom's Igor Konyshev said: "It was an instance of information terrorism, sabotage." Management of the Leningrad plant is planning to claim compensation from the email authors in order to cast light on the organisational structure behind the distributed action.