This discussion is taking place currently amongst the top government officials and comes amid repeated attacks on the control rooms of Indian power grids by Chinese hacker group Red Echo. The repeated attacks could have led to widespread power blackouts. However, the hackers were not able to get into the systems and there was no incidence of a data breach as per the statement from the power ministry.
The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC), which oversees the country’s cybersecurity-related processes across core sectors, issued an alert on 12 February regarding the Red Echo attack on the Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs) and State Load Dispatch Centres (SLDCs).
“We are thinking to formally state this because nothing in China is private in the strictest sense. There are various international committees on this, with cybersecurity being one of the important areas of cooperation. The idea is to take this up in different global forums,” said an official.
“NCIIPC informed through email dated 12 February 2021 about the threat by Red Echo through malware called Shadow Pad. It stated that: ‘Chinese state-sponsored threat actor group known as Red Echo is targeting Indian power sector’s Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs) along with State Load Dispatch Centres (SLDCs)’,” according to a statement made by the Union Power Ministry.
Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) had sent alerts about the Shadow Pad malware before the warning came from NCIIPC.
“We may take this up at the appropriate forums. This is not the India of 1947 and we are not going to be cowed down. You are targeting the population by destabilising the power system. If you switch off the power, the economy will grind to a halt,” said an official.
India is strengthening its capability in dealing with advanced cyberattacks as power infrastructure seems to be their favourite target over the years. “We are working on hardening the grid,” another official said regarding the national power grid.