‘No Proof of Chinese Role in Mumbai Power Outage’: Union Power Min

A study by Recorded Future suggests a cyber campaign by a China-linked group, named RedEcho.

Updated
India
3 min read
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.
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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.

Read the findings of the report here.

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.

“We don’t have evidence to say that the cyber-attacks were carried out by China or Pakistan. Some people say that the group behind the attacks is Chinese but we don’t have evidence. China will definitely deny it,” he added.

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.

“An email was received from CERT-In on 19 November 2020 on the threat of malware called Shadow Pad at some control centres of POSOCO. Accordingly, action has been taken to address these threats,” the statement said.

“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.

“When the power went out in Mumbai, I had said that there was something wrong and had constituted three committees to probe it. I feel media reports that have surfaced are true,” Raut said on Monday, as quoted by ANI.

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.”

(With inputs from ANI, PTI and The Indian Express.)

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