Mumbai Oct. blackout: Needle of suspicion on Chinese cyber-attack

Mumbai, March 1 (IANS): In a shocking revelation, the Maharashtra government on Monday said that the massive and unprecedented power blackout that paralysed Mumbai and surroundings for several hours on Oct. 12 2020, was caused by a suspected cyber-attack originating in China.

"I feel the media reports that have emerged in the matter are true," a grim Energy Minister Dr. Nitin Raut told media with Home Minister Anil Deshmukh accompanying him this evening.

Suspecting 'sabotage' as the cause behind the power outage, Raut had requested Deshmukh to probe the matter to get to the truth and a preliminary report in the matter has been submitted to the government.

However, the two ministers today declined to divulge specific details in view of the Budget Session currently underway and assured they would table the primary probe report before the legislature.

"We will study the report in detail before commenting on it further," said Deshmukh on the report prepared by the Maharashtra Cyber Police cell.

"The Cyber Cell has submitted its preliminary report on the matter. The findings state that there is evidence to suggest there might have been a cyber-sabotage attempt," said Deshmukh, adding the report has been formally handed over to Raut.

"When power went out in Mumbai on Oct. 12, I had said there was something wrong and had constituted 3 committees to probe I feel media reports that have surfaced are true," Raut said.

The power failure had tripped Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) comprising Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts and brought the city's lifelines - suburban railways to half besides hugely hitting industrial and business activities in the country's commercial capital.

At that time, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government came under severe fire from various quarters including the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, especially after Raut spoke of possible sabotage as the cause behind the blackout.

Moving swiftly, the government asked Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) to probe, while NTPC Ltd had set up its separate committees to probe the cause of the power outage and their reports have been received.

A recent "New York Times" report hinted that China launched a cyber-attack against India, targeting its power grid in particular, in the wake of the Galwan Valley border clashes in 2020.

As per the findings of Recorded Future, a Massachusetts-based firm that studies the use of Internet by state players, the Mumbai cyber-attack on power systems was allegedly carried out by a Chinese state-connected entity known as Red Echo, targeting the crucial Indian energy sector.

"The Recorded Future has suspected that the attack of Mumbai's power infrastructure could have been due to the introduction of a malware," said Deshmukh on the NYT report.

The incident had hit Mumbai at a time when the economy was being brought back on track through a cautious, phased Unlockdown process after over 6 months of the near-total Lockdown following the Covid-19 pandemic havoc in the state.



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