In what way can you potentially cripple an economy without leaving a physical footprint in the country?
The answer is straightforward, invading their cyberspace. In a recent attempt at the cyber intrusion, the mal-entities caused a power outage in Mumbai wreaking havoc on the ‘commercial capital’ of the country. The power failure paralyzed the banking facilities, hospitals, railways and even caused malfunctioning at the National Stock Exchange (NSE) – leaving Mumbai on a pause for several hours.
Probe and Redressal
Authorities investigating the situation expect a detailed report by the fortnight. The incident has triggered the drafting of a new security strategy as the agencies pull forces to strengthen the cybersecurity of the nation. The plan encases Home Affairs, Information Technology, Defense, and the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre and seeks coordination from each to arrive at a decision. The novel strategy will seek the approval of the cabinet committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The new draft will include protocols for prevention and audit to secure the digitally connected water, health, and education systems that should find a status of critical infrastructure. Nuclear power and aviation are to receive ‘super critical’ status as per plan.
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A statement from the National Cyber Security Coordinator, Lt Gen Rajesh Pant, reveals that the departments are left with minor traces to probe further. However, investigation surrounding security breaches of this scale usually involves infrastructure and expertise to enter a race against time to reach the threat-entity.
A US-based research firm claimed that at least one connection was opened by Chinese state-sponsored hackers Red Echo, into the network system of an Indian port when the authorities blocked the attempts to penetrate the South Asian national electrical sector.
Attacks of this genre have been happening since the mid of 2020 when soldiers of the two nations got involved in a gory fist-fight on a border front, inflicting casualties on both sides.
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Not long before the Mumbai power outage, the Chinese hackers targeted the Telangana power utilities. TS Transco and TS Genco had managed to neutralize cyberattacks from China targeting at least 40 electricity substations. Reports from last year reveal, Chinese hackers targeting multiple unsuspecting online shoppers during the festive months of October and November. Even before that, Chinese hackers attempted over 40,000 cyber attacks on India’s Information Technology infrastructure and banking sector. A Singapore-based Cybersecurity Firm reportedly warned Indian top ministries of possible cyber attacks by two Chinese hacking groups dubbed Gothic Panda and Stone Panda. Maintaining a similar style, in 2017, an Indian Air Force Sukhoi 30 fighter aircraft was downed, allegedly, by China via cyber doors.
Last year, the United States has also seen cyber attacks on several of their federal outfits with theft of information regarding many of their state heads. The FBI and CISA announced that a Russian hacking group breached U.S. state and local government networks, as well as aviation networks, and exfiltrated data. Around the same time, a reputed IT company had their networks downed for days owing to a ransomware attack. The list would go on.
The incidents expose several aspects to contemplate on. If cyber warfare is evolving into the future war frontier, how prepared are the countries of South Asia? In the age of digitization, when consumer convenience is prioritized with most transactions happening online, how safe are our liquid assets?