The power outage in Mumbai, that had blacked out most of India’s financial capital on 12 October, seems to be turning into a political battle months later, after a report suggested that the reason behind the outage might have been more than just a technical failure.
Following a study by Recorded Future – an intelligence provider for enterprise security – that claimed to reveal details of “a cyber campaign conducted by a China-linked group, named RedEcho,” the power outage by many is being seen as China’s attempt to threaten Indian amid the ongoing stand-off between the two nations.
While the Maharashtra government has launched an investigation into the matter, the Centre has said that there has been no evidence of China’s role in the matter so far.
WHAT THE CENTRE SAYS
Union Power Minister RK Singh said that while there has been no evidence of a possible Chinese involvement, there have been attempts to hack the cyber systems.
“Two teams investigated the power outage and submitted that the outage was caused by human error and not due to cyber attack. One of the teams submitted that cyber attack did happen but they were not linked to the Mumbai grid failure,” he said, as quoted by ANI.
Without mentioning the Mumbai power outage, the Power Ministry on Monday had said that there is no impact on operations of Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO) due to any malware attack, adding that prompt actions are taken on advisories issued against such threats.
“There is no impact on any of the functionalities carried out by POSOCO due to the referred threat. No data breach/data loss has been detected due to these incidents,” the ministry said.
The ministry further added that prompt actions were being taken by the chief information security officers (CISOs) at all the control centres under operation by POSOCO for any incident/advisory received from various agencies like CERT-in, NCIIPC, CERT-Trans and the likes.
“NCIIPC informed through mail on 12 February about threat by RedEcho through malware Shadow Pad that ‘Chinese state-sponsored threat actor group known as RedEcho is targeting Indian Power sector’s Regional Load Dispatch Centres along with State Load Dispatch Centres’,” the ministry added.
WHAT THE MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT SAID
After the report was released, the Maharashtra government took cognisance and a preliminary report by the Maharashtra Cyber Cell was submitted to Home Minister Anil Deshmukh by state’s power minister Nitin Raut.
According to Deshmukh, the report’s findings state that there is evidence which suggests there might have been a cyber-sabotage attempt.
“I had spoken about only Mumbai in the press conference on cyber attack on Monday but the NYT report speaks about entire Indian vital infrastructure. Central power minister has called me and I briefed him. He also expressed concern over this. The Union Minister said that this is a serious issue all states should be vigilant,” Deshmukh said on Monday.
“The inquiry report has given an indication that a malware was infected into the MSEB servers. However, we can’t say which county is behind this at this point of time,” Deshmukh had said on Monday, as quoted by The Indian Express.
Maharashtra power minister Nitin Raut said that he had suspected from the beginning that the outage was due to something more than a technical glitch.
WHAT CHINA SAYS
Responding to comments on China trying to bully India with cyber attacks amid the border tensions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that such claims were “irresponsible”
In a statement shared by the spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India on Twitter, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “As staunch defender of cyber security, China firmly opposes & cracks down on all forms of cyber attacks. Speculation & fabrication have no role to play on the issue of cyber attacks. Highly irresponsible to accuse a particular party with no sufficient evidence around.”