Late on Monday evening, the CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) reported from a trusted source that China-based threat actor group command and control servers were trying to communicate with systems belonging to Telangana SLDC (State Load Dispatch Centre) and asked the Telangana power utilities to take all protection and safety measures.
The SLDC monitors power supply situation in the state and the malware had entered 40 substations, but efforts by the hackers were successfully thwarted by state government agencies. “After we got an alert from the central authorities, we have removed all malware in 40 substations in SLDC and strengthened our firewall. Telangana is one among seven states that Chinese hackers tried to communicate with the power systems,” Telangana Transco and Genco chairman and managing director D Prabhakar Rao told TOI on Tuesday.
He said various measures were taken by TS Transco, including blocking server IPs communicated by CERT-In, temporarily disabled control function for remote operation of circuit breakers from SLDC among other measures. “We ensured smooth power supply to all consumers of the state,” Prabhakar Rao said.
This is not the first time Telangana power utilities were targeted by the hackers. In April 2019, the website of Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Company Limited (TSSPDCL) that supplies power to various districts, including Greater Hyderabad, was attacked by ransomware. The hacker, who had launched Robinhood ransomware attack on TSSPDCL website, demanded ransom in bitcoins. As a result, the services of the TSSPDCL were stalled for three to four days before the IT wing of the power utility successfully removed the ransomware.
A New York Times report on Sunday quoted a report that said Chinese hackers were possibly behind the massive October 12, 2020, power outage in Mumbai. But the Union power ministry on Tuesday attributed it to “human error”. They, however, admitted malware getting into north and south load dispatch centres, short of the operating systems.