“Severe” ransomware attack cripples big aluminum producer

Notes posted on a window of Norsk Hydro's headquarters in Norway on March 19, 2019.

Enlarge / Notes posted on a window of Norsk Hydro’s headquarters in Norway on March 19, 2019. (credit: Getty Images)

One of the world’s biggest producers of aluminum has been hit by a serious ransomware attack that shut down its worldwide network, stopped or disrupted plants, and sent IT workers scrambling to return operations to normal.

Norsk Hydro of Norway said the malware first hit computers in the United States on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, the infection had spread to other parts of the company, which operates in 40 countries. Company officials responded by isolating plants to prevent further spreading. Some plants were temporarily stopped, while others, which had to be kept running continuously, were switched to manual mode when possible. The company’s 35,000 employees were instructed to keep computers turned off but were allowed to use phones and tablets to check email.

“Let me be clear: the situation for Norsk Hydro through this is quite severe,” Chief Financial Officer Eivind Kallevik said during a press conference Tuesday. “The entire worldwide network is down, affecting our production as well as our office operations. We are working hard to contain and solve this situation and to ensure the safety and security of our employees. Our main priority now is to ensure safe operations and limit the operational and financial impact.”

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