Technology The unexpected damage of war: wind turbines hit by a cyberattack

The unexpected damage of war: wind turbines hit by a cyberattack




With Mathilde Fontez, editor-in-chief of the scientific magazine Epsiloon. we are talking about today in The science post of the weekend cyberattacks that have multiplied since the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin.

franceinfo: Do ​​these attacks affect wind turbines today?

Mathilde Fontez: Yes, 5,800 wind turbines from the German manufacturer Enercon are currently without control, due to a satellite link failure. A failure which is suspected to have been caused by a cyber attack, at the time of the invasion of Ukraine, Thursday, February 24.

These wind turbines have not stopped producing electricity. They represent 11 gigawatts in all. But the Enercon spokesman said they should operate in automatic mode until the fault is repaired. Which means they are no longer accessible for remote monitoring and control. If there was an incident, technicians would have to come.

Are they normally guided by satellite?

Yes. And this is the root of the problem. These wind turbines are probably among the 30,000 terminals that were affected by the satellite attack suffered by the operator Viasat, an American company which provides broadband coverage throughout Europe. Viasat has confirmed that it has been experiencing a partial network outage since February 24. And said the investigation into the outage is continuing, but a “cyber event” is suspected.

The KA-SAT satellite reportedly malfunctioned due to a cyberattack on February 24, 2022.   (AIRBUS DEFENSE AND SPACE SAS)

This outage also caused Internet connection problems in France, among Nordnet network customers. And it was when this satellite, which is part of the KA-SAT network, stopped working, during the assault in Ukraine, that the wind turbines lost their connection. Everything therefore suggests that these turbines are a collateral victim of a cyberattack that targeted the satellite network.

Do these wind turbines out of control present risks?

Not really. They can self-regulate. If an incident occurred, they would simply stop. And this outage did not cause any problems on the electrical network. Other turbines took over.

But wind turbines remain critical infrastructure. And what is happening there is a demonstration of our vulnerability to cyberattacks, even beyond the use of the Internet. The Federal Office for Information Security and the German Federal Network Agency are also investigating the incident.



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