Monday, September 20, 2021
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Cyber-attack on 10 Indian electricity assets ‘a problem’, but details remain ‘classified information’

Even as suspense over suspected cyber-attack on key Indian power installations is yet to be cleared, the Union IT IT secretary, Ajay Prakash Sawhney has informed the parliamentary standing committee on information technology that it has the cutting edge technology, standard operating procedures and processes to tackle any cyber-attack that may come India’s way.

This comes days after reports of suspected Indian state-sponsored group Sidewinder targeting Chinese military and government entities in 2020 by a US company Recorded Future surfaced. The watchdog in its report observed an activity overlapping with recent Trend Micro research.

Meanwhile, the Union IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney while appearing before a Shashi Tharoor-led House panel said that India has robust mechanisms in place and that it is well prepared to counter and quell any attacks.

The Centre’s response comes following reports of a possible Chinese online attack over the Indian power grid system leading to recent power outage in Mumbai. According to reports, a Chinese government-linked group of hackers targeted India’s critical power grid system through malware.

The report by the US company said that the recent military escalation between India and China armies in Ladakh around the line of actual control (LAC) was behind cyber attack on Indian power installations. According to reports, at least 10 electricity assets owned by NTPC and POSCO acknowledged ‘a problem’.

The Union IT secretary has, however, refused to divulge any details citing ‘classified information’. The Union government in a recent report meanwhile, said that “Energy Efficiency Services Limited had investigated the (Mumbai) incident and the disconnection was being done from HES (Head End System) and it has been moved to the MDM which is a better practice. It was further said that so far, it has not come to any conclusion relating to cyber security aspect or of any sabotage and EESL has been asked to take corrective actions.”

Earlier, the standing committee on energy had also pulled up the Centre for ‘laxity’ in safeguarding the cybersecurity of India’s electricity infrastructure amid ongoing efforts to integrate the national grid infrastructure with the internet.

“Since the country has decided to go ahead with the smart grid and smart metering technologies in a big way, the committee is of the view that such issues could wreak havoc in the energy sector, if we are not prepared with a fool-proof plan to timely avert them,” the committee had said in its report.

Members of the IT panel have also sought to know where India had located its servers and cyber security infrastructure, and whether thegovernment had drawn up a list of “bad hackers” whose activities it would track. Sources said the government said it did not have such a list. Ministry officials were also unable to provide data on the number of cyber-attacks India has faced over the last few months.

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