Nuclear Plants Cautiously Phase Out Dial-Up Modems – Wired

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking the operators of America’s 66 nuclear power plants to voluntarily upgrade the on-site monitoring systems that report plant conditions to the government.

That upgrade to the 16-year-old Emergency Response Data System? Replacing telephone dial-up modems with VPN appliances.

“Licensees currently use analog modulator/demodulators (modems) to establish point-to-point data connections,” the NRC wrote in a memo (.pdf) to plant operators late last month. “Although this technology was state of the art when ERDS was first implemented, it is now obsolete, and replacement equipment is no longer available.”

The NRC notes several advantages to doing away with dial-up. For one, in a crisis all the plants could report data to the NRC’s Maryland headquarters simultaneously, without the hassle of busy signals. In addition, “The use of modems inherently introduces cyber security vulnerabilities to the systems to which they are attached.”