FitzRoy, the supercomputer maintained by New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), reportedly was the target of unauthorized access attempts by attackers alleged to have been based in China.
An early announcement from NIWA chief John Morgan had indicated that FitzRoy had been accessed by “an unauthorised person” late last week and that they NIWA was “confident the intruder did not get beyond the supercomputer,”,which was subsequently taken offline. After the forensics investigation, officials determined there had not been any actual penetration of the system’s security.
“NIWA has confirmed there were unauthorised attempts to access its supercomputer late last week. As a precaution, NIWA took the supercomputer offline and immediately undertook a series of tests with the assistance of IBM. NIWA is able to confirm that the unauthorised attempts to gain access to the supercomputer were unsuccessful,” NIWA disclosed.
“After taking a number of mitigation steps, the supercomputer was back online on Saturday evening with all normal services resumed. The National Cyber Security Centre has been kept fully informed throughout the process.”
NIWA says the system does not store any sensitive information that could have been exposed in the event of unauthorized access, and that the supercomputer is used only for running complex weather models and other services that require tremendous computing power.
FitzRoy, weighing in at eighteen tons, is considered to be one of the most powerful computing systems in the world, estimated to have 100 times the power of Niwa’s previous supercomputer, and has the computing power equivalent to around 7000 laptops working in unison, making it an attractive target for botnet masters and Bitcoin-mining operations.