Mumbai power outage may have resulted from cyber sabotage, says state minister Anil Deshmukh

Mumbai: The massive power outage in Mumbai on 12 October last year may have been the result of a cyber sabotage, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Monday, citing a probe report of the state's Cyber Cell.

Addressing media persons jointly with Energy Minister Nitin Raut, Deshmukh said the Maharashtra Cyber Cell has also mentioned in its preliminary report that unaccounted data may have been transferred to the MSEBs (state electricity board) server from a foreign server.

He, however, did not name the country from where the data may have been transferred.

Deshmukh's comments came in the wake of a US company's report claiming that amidst the border tension in Ladakh last year, a Chinese government-linked group of hackers targeted India's critical power grid system through a malware.

The report raised suspicion whether the massive power outage in the financial capital was a result of the online intrusion.

On 12 October, a grid failure in Mumbai resulted in a massive power outage, stopping trains on tracks, hampering those working from home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and hitting the economic activity hard.

Deshmukh also referred to a related news report in the New York Times as he spoke to the media persons.

The Cyber Cell's report into the outage, prepared with the help of electricity department experts, was handed over to Raut on Monday evening.

"We had discussion with our colleague Raut about examining if there was any such possibility (of cyber sabotage) after the power failure in Mumbai. The Maharashtra Cyber analysed the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (of the MSEB). In its analysis, the Maharashtra Cyber (cell) has mentioned possibility that there could be a cyber sabotage," Deshmukh said.

The home minister said the Cyber Cell has mentioned in the report that 14 Trojan horses (malware) may have been introduced in the MSEBs server.

Secondly, 8 GB unaccounted data may have been transferred into the MSEBs server from a foreign server, he said.

Thirdly, the Cell has said in the report that there is a possibility of attempts being made to log into the MSEBs server through several blacklisted IP addresses, Deshmukh added.

So, from the findings of the Cyber Crime department and electricity department experts, it seems that the 12 October blackout could have been due to it (sabotage), he said.

The home minister said the preliminary report will be further studied. On his part, Raut said he will comment on the issue after studying the report. "I will speak on this in the legislature (which is having its budget session)," he added.

Earlier in the day, the energy minister said that from the information he had, the outage was caused by a "cyber attack" and it was an act of sabotage.

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