Mumbai’s massive power cut last month may have been the work of hackers

Mumbai’s massive power cut last month may have been the work of hackers
Shop keepers look for medicines with mobile flashlights with the power cut in Mumbai crossing eight hours on October 12BCCL

  • The massive power cut in India’s financial capital Mumbai on October 12 may have been the work of hackers.
  • The Maharashtra Police’s cyber cell probe has reportedly found evidence of suspicious logins and is working to determine if this was a coordinated attempt to take down Mumbai’s power grid.
  • According to an earlier statement by the state’s Energy Minister Nitin Raut, the possibility of sabotage cannot be ruled out.
The power was out in Mumbai for nearly a day on October 12, putting the stock exchanges, medical facilities, and other critical infrastructure at risk. Now, the state police’s cyber cell probe has reportedly revealed that this may have been the work of state-sponsored hackers.

Sources told the Mumbai Mirror that multiple ‘suspicious’ logins on the supply and transmission utility servers were detected during the month-long probe. Most of these accounts were from other Asian countries, including Singapore.

The investigation is currently ongoing to determine whether it was a coordinated attempt to bring down India’s financial capital.
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State-sponsored hackers targeting India
According to a report by CYFIRMA, at least four different state-sponsored hacking groups have India in their crosshairs. This includes Mission 2025, Apt36, Stone Panda, and the infamous Lazarus Group.

However, until more information comes to light, there’s no way to tell whether it was one of these four groups or a new player altogether that attacked India’s power grids. According to Mumbai Mirror, the attempts to break through have been ongoing since February — shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak started to spread.

At the time of the Mumbai power outage, Maharashtra’s Energy Minister Nitin Raut told the media that the possibility of sabotage could not be ruled out. “There was a technical problem and the Kharghar unit stopped. There was an islanding failure in Mumbai, which shouldn't have happened. This is the reason that the possibility of sabotage is suspected,” he said.

Not the first time a power facility has been breached in the last 6 months
Earlier this year in June, there was another breach at the Jammu and Kashmir Power Department's data centres. Not only was the department rendered inoperable for three days, its website and mobile app were also taken down.

Neel Kamal Singh from the IT wing of the J&K Power Department told the press that it was a ransomware attack, where all official files and data have been encrypted by the hackers. Before the attack was finally shut down, the hackers were able to compromise at least four servers.

India is not alone
Methods of warfare are no longer restricted to horses or firepower. Most attacks now happen in the digital space, and India is not alone in its struggles.

Canada, for instance, has named China and Russia as primary threats to its cybersecurity. The country’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) fears that these foreign actors are likely to target Canada’s power supply.

The US has also identified China as a threat to its national security, with the possibility of an attack on some of its critical infrastructure.

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