A woman and her daughter light a candle inside their house after a power outage in Mumbai. Photograph:( Reuters )
Stuart Solomon, Recorded Future's chief operating officer, said that the Chinese state-sponsored group, which the firm named Red Echo, "has been seen to systematically utilize advanced cyber intrusion techniques to quietly gain a foothold in nearly a dozen critical nodes across the Indian power generation and transmission infrastructure."
China had launched a cyberattack against India's power grid targeting Mumbai on October 13 last year, in a warning message after the tension at the Ladakh border.
A report in The New York Times has claimed China has been targeting Indian utilities and infrastructure using cyberattacks to possibly coerce New Delhi on the border issue.
As per the report when the Indian soldiers were locked in a tense standoff with China along the Line of Control(LoC), Beijing injected malware into the electrical supply of the country.
Watch: Power outage in Mumbai due to grid failure (Year 2020)
The malware tracing was done by Recorded Future which is a cybersecurity company founded in 2009 with headquarters in Massachusetts. The company claims that most of the malware was not activated. It may mean that a small proportion of malware was used during the Mumbai power outage.
A Chinese state-sponsored group Red Echo has been held responsible for the Mumbai power outage.
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Stuart Solomon, Recorded Future’s chief operating officer, said that the Chinese state-sponsored group Red Echo, “has been seen to systematically utilize advanced cyber intrusion techniques to quietly gain a foothold in nearly a dozen critical nodes across the Indian power generation and transmission infrastructure.”
"The study shows that as the battles raged in the Himalayas, taking at least two dozen lives, Chinese malware was flowing into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant", NYT said.
The report said the flow of malware was pieced together by Recorded Future, a Somerville, Massachusetts, company that studies the use of the internet by state actors. It found that most of the malware was never activated.
"And because Recorded Future could not get inside India's power systems, it could not examine the details of the code itself, which was placed in strategic power-distribution systems across the country. While it has notified Indian authorities, so far they are not reporting what they have found", NYT said.
Stuart Solomon said that the Chinese state-sponsored group, which the firm named Red Echo, "has been seen to systematically utilize advanced cyber intrusion techniques to quietly gain a foothold in nearly a dozen critical nodes across the Indian power generation and transmission infrastructure."
The discovery raises the question about whether an outage that struck on October 13 in Mumbai, one of the country's busiest business hubs, was meant as a message from Beijing about what might happen if India pushed its border claims too vigorously, NYT said.
It added that news reports at the time quoted Indian officials as saying that the cause was a Chinese-origin cyberattack on a nearby electricity load-management centre. Authorities began a formal investigation, which is due to report in the coming weeks. Since then, Indian officials have gone silent about the Chinese code, whether it set off the Mumbai blackout and the evidence provided to them by Recorded Future that many elements of the nation's electric grid were the target of a sophisticated Chinese hacking effort.
NYT said the investigators who wrote the Recorded Future study, which is set to be published Monday, said that "the alleged link between the outage and the discovery of the unspecified malware" in the system "remains unsubstantiated." But they noted that "additional evidence suggested the coordinated targeting of the Indian load dispatch centres," which balance the electrical demands across regions of the country.
"I think the signalling is being done" by China to indicate "that we can and we have the capability to do this in times of a crisis," said retired Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, a cyber expert who oversaw India's borders with Pakistan and China. "It's like sending a warning to India that this capability exists with us", NYT quoted.
(With inputs from agencies)