In a move highlighting the contentious issue of the Fukushima nuclear plant’s planned discharge of treated radioactive water into the ocean, international hacker group Anonymous has mounted cyberattacks against Japanese nuclear power-affiliated organizations.
The series of attacks come in the wake of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report which endorses the discharge as globally safe.
Escalated Cyber Offensives
Since last month, the hacktivist group has been ramping up its cyber offensives, as revealed by NTT Security Japan. “Vigilance is imperative, as attacks might surge post-discharge,” warned a representative from the Tokyo-based IT security firm.
Major Targets and Nature of Attacks
Organizations under the hacktivist group’s radar include the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Japan Atomic Power Co., and the Atomic Energy Society of Japan.
Primarily deploying distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which swamp networks with massive amounts of data, the main assault force hails from Italy. In a subsequent revelation, NTT Security has also identified activities from a group based in Vietnam.
Interestingly, despite the amplified traffic — around 100 times the usual — the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s website remained functional, thanks to its counteractive measures.
Anonymous’ Motive and ‘Target List’
Following the Japanese government’s 2021 decision to discharge treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Anonymous revealed a “target list.” Apart from the three nuclear power-affiliated entities, TEPCO, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Liberal Democratic Party were also marked.
In a conversation with Kyodo News, an Anonymous member lamented the Japanese government’s opaque decision-making process concerning the treated water’s release. Emphasizing the ethical concerns, they stated, “The sea must not be reduced to a dumping ground for economic advantage.”
Misdirected Attack and Unintended Consequences
In an unfortunate mix-up, Nippon Weston Co., unrelated to the nuclear power sector, found itself under Anonymous’s fire. Presumably, its website,
www.weston.co.jp, was mistaken for a western Japanese government entity. However, the company, specializing in industrial cleaning cloth leasing, reported no significant impact.
Background: The Fukushima Plant Controversy
Post the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastation, the Fukushima plant produced vast amounts of contaminated water while cooling its melted reactor fuel. This water, stored post an advanced purification process eliminating most radionuclides save for tritium, is now almost exceeding storage capacity.
Though tritium is considered less hazardous than radioactive materials like cesium and strontium, local fishermen and some neighboring countries vehemently oppose the release plan. Notably, China has initiated radiation tests on all Japanese seafood imports in response.