India’s power grids are “highly” susceptible to cyber attacks from China, as the Sunday Guardian reported on Sunday. It stated that urgent action was required to be taken to isolate the critical part of the control rooms so that they were kept out of the reach of the hackers.
The Indian power system, for planning and operational purposes, is divided into five regional grids, namely, Northern, Eastern, Western, North Eastern and Southern grids.
An example of how the repercussions of a cyber-hijack of the power grids would look like was seen on 30 and 31 July 2012, when a blackout engulfed the entire Northern region covering eight states—Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Power could be restored only on the night of 31 July after a loss of approximately $100 million. The reason for the blackout, as per the inquiry done by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, was “skewed load generation balance among the regions”.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had a specialised unit comprising cyber “warriors” whose only job, during war, was to sabotage the critical infrastructure of the enemy country.
In December 2019, the US National Defense Authorization Act 2020, has been passed by the US government with the aim to establish a two-year pilot programme to identify security vulnerabilities of certain entities in the energy sector.
This pilot programme will examine ways to replace automated systems with low-tech redundancies, like manual procedures controlled by human operators, thereby thwarting even the “most sophisticated cyber-adversaries who, if they are intent on accessing the grid, would have to actually physically touch the equipment, thereby making cyber-attacks much more difficult”.
A report said that China now had the capability to successfully target critical infrastructure, such as the electric grid and cause “temporary disruptive effects”.
“China presents a persistent cyber-espionage threat and a growing attack threat to our core military and critical infrastructure systems. China remains the most active strategic competitor responsible for cyber espionage against the US government, corporations, and allies. It is improving its cyberattack capabilities and altering information online, shaping Chinese views and potentially the views of US citizens—an issue we discuss in greater detail in the Online Influence Operations and Election Interference section of this report. Beijing will authorize cyber espionage against key US technology sectors when doing so addresses a significant national security or economic goal not achievable through other means. We are also concerned about the potential for Chinese intelligence and security services to use Chinese information technology firms as routine and systemic espionage platforms against the United States and allies. China has the ability to launch cyberattacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructures—such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks—in the United States,” the relevant part of the report stated.