Chinese hackers reportedly target India’s power grid

Chinese hackers reportedly target India’s power grid
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the report had been noted by Beijing, but China firmly opposes and combats any form of cyberattacks. (AP)
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Updated 07 April 2022

Chinese hackers reportedly target India’s power grid

Chinese hackers reportedly target India’s power grid
  • China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday the report had been “noted” by Beijing
  • Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India hasn’t discussed the issue with China

BANGKOK: India’s power sector has been targeted by hackers in a long-term operation thought to have been carried out by a state-sponsored Chinese group, a US-based private cybersecurity company detailed in a new report.
Over the last several months, the Insikt Group, the threat research division of Massachusetts-based Recorded Future, said it has collected evidence that hackers targeted seven Indian state centers responsible for carrying out electrical dispatch and grid control near a border area disputed by the two nuclear neighbors.
The group primarily used the Trojan ShadowPad, which is believed to have been developed by contractors for China’s Ministry of State Security, leading to the conclusion that this was a state-sponsored hacking effort, the group reported.
“ShadowPad continues to be employed by an ever–increasing number of People’s Liberation Army and Ministry of State Security-linked groups, with its origins linked to known MSS contractors first using the tool in their own operations and later likely acting as a digital quartermaster,” Recorded Future said in the report late Wednesday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday the report had been “noted” by Beijing, but that China “firmly opposes and combats any form of cyberattacks, and will not encourage, support or condone any cyberattacks.”
“I would like to advise the company concerned that if they really care about global cybersecurity, they should pay more attention to the cyberattacks by the US government hackers on China and other countries, and do more to help promote dialogue and cooperation among countries, instead of using the cyberattack issue to stir up trouble and throw mud at China,” he told reporters.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India hasn’t discussed the issue with China.
“We have seen reports. There is a mechanism to safeguard our critical infrastructure to keep it resilient. We haven’t raised this issue with China,” he said.
Indian Minister of Power R.K. Singh said the report was not a cause for concern.
“We are always prepared,” he said. “We have a very robust security system. We are always alert.”
Insikt Group already detected and reported a suspected Chinese-sponsored hack of 10 Indian power sector organizations in February 2021 by a group known as RedEcho. The more recent hack “displays targeting and capability consistencies” with RedEcho, but there are also “notable distinctions” between the two so the group has been given the working name of Threat Activity Group 38, or TAG-38, as more information is gathered.
Following a short lull after its first report, Recorded Future said the Insikt Group again started tracking hacking attempts on India’s power grid organizations. Over the last several months, through late March, it identified likely network intrusions targeting at least seven of India’s so-called “State Load Dispatch Centers” — all in proximity to the disputed border in Ladakh, where Chinese and Indian troops clashed in June 2020, leaving 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese dead.
“Recorded Future continues to track Chinese state-sponsored activity groups targeting a wide variety of sectors globally — a large majority of this conforms to longstanding cyber espionage efforts, such as targeting of foreign governments, surveillance of dissident and minority groups, and economic espionage,” the report said.
“However, the coordinated effort to target Indian power grid assets in recent years is notably distinct from our perspective and, given the continued heightened tension and border disputes between the two countries, we believe is a cause for concern,” it added.
Hackers are thought to have gained access through third-party devices connected to the Internet, like IP cameras, which had been compromised, the company said.
Investigators have not yet determined how they had been compromised, but Recorded Future suggested they may have originally been installed using default credentials, leaving them vulnerable.
Because the prolonged targeting of India’s power grid “offers limited economic espionage or traditional intelligence-gathering opportunities,” Recorded Future said it seems more likely the goal is to enable information gathering around surrounding critical infrastructure systems, or to be pre-positioned for future activity.
“The objective for intrusions may include gaining an increased understanding into these complex systems in order to facilitate capability development for future use or gaining sufficient access across the system in preparation for future contingency operations,” Recorded Future said.


US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine

US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine
Updated 28 September 2022

US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine

US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine
  • The package of orders for US military suppliers includes Himars missile systems and ammunition
  • The new package took the total military aid from the United States to Ukraine since the Russians invaded on February 24 to $16.2 billion

WASHINGTON: The United States announced Wednesday a new package of arms and supplies for Ukraine worth $1.1 billion for reinforcing Kyiv’s forces over the medium and long term.
The package of orders for US military suppliers includes Himars missile systems and ammunition, systems to counter drones, radars and armored vehicles, according to a Defense Department statement.
The package “represents a multi-year investment in critical capabilities to build the enduring strength of Ukraine’s Armed Forces” as they continue to battle the invading Russian army, the Pentagon said.
The new package took the total military aid from the United States to Ukraine since the Russians invaded on February 24 to $16.2 billion.
It includes 18 more Himars systems, highly accurate missile systems which the Ukrainians have been using effectively since June to hit Russian arms depots and command posts far behind the front lines.
It also includes 150 armored vehicles, 150 tactical vehicles for towing weapons, trucks and trailers, and systems to help Ukraine defend against Russia’s Iranian-made drones increasingly deployed on the battlefield.


Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk

Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk
Updated 28 September 2022

Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk

Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk
  • King Abdullah II expressed his heartfelt condolences for the passing of former Prime Minister Abe
  • The two leaders exchanged views on the regional situation including the Middle East Peace

TOKYO: Japan’s Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio, held a summit meeting on September 28 with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is currently in Japan after attending the state funeral for former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo.
At the outset of the meeting that lasted 10 minutes according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo, Kishida expressed his appreciation for the king’s attendance at the state funeral and expressed his hope to hold discussions to further develop the diplomatic legacy inherited from the late former Prime Minister Abe.
King Abdullah II expressed his heartfelt condolences for the passing of former Prime Minister Abe, and stated that late former Prime Minister Abe was a great friend of not only Jordan but also the region and shared the hope to develop the bilateral relationship based on his legacy.
Prime Minister Kishida extended his congratulations to Crown Prince Hussein’s engagement and expressed his wish for the long-lasting prosperity of the Jordanian Royal Family and further development of friendly relations with Japan’s Imperial Family.
The two leaders exchanged views on the regional situation including the Middle East Peace. Prime Minister Kishida expressed his concern about the impact of the price hike of food and fuel on Jordan, which is hosting a large number of Palestinian refugees, and stated that Japan would continue its support for Jordan, including its support to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees).
In response, King Abdullah II expressed his gratitude for Japan’s wide-ranging cooperation for Jordan and UNRWA and stated that he would like to cooperate with Japan in advancing projects involving countries in the region.
The two leaders confirmed that they will continue to work closely together for the long-term stability of the region, according to the ministry.
 


EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation

EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation
Updated 28 September 2022

EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation

EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation
  • Ursula von der Leyen: ‘We do not accept the sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine ... we are determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation’
  • Von der Leyen: ‘We are proposing a new package of biting sanctions against Russia’

BRUSSELS: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed fresh sanctions against Russia over its war against Ukraine, including further trade restrictions, individual blacklistings and an oil price cap for third countries.
The proposal will now go to the bloc’s 27 member countries, which will need to overcome differences on the new sanctions and reach unanimity to implement them.
That may take time despite the EU being spurred into action by Russia’s partial military mobilization, nuclear threats to the West and moving to annex a swath of Ukraine.
“We do not accept the sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine. And we are determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation,” von der Leyen told reporters.
“We are proposing a new package of biting sanctions against Russia.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a senior economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the EU to further cut money flows to Russia from fossil fuel sales.
The G7 group of industrialized countries — where EU countries Italy, France and Germany are also members — already agreed to put such an oil price cap in place via insurers.
“If you are doing nothing it means you are just prolonging this war with Ukraine, this is just ridiculous, the whole civilized world has to be united on that,” Oleg Ustenko told reporters.
While the EU already agreed to stop importing Russian oil starting later this year, Ustenko said the “blood money” would keep on flowing to Moscow unless European companies are banned from insuring seaborne shipments.


Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants
Updated 28 September 2022

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants
  • The measure becomes effective at midnight Wednesday
  • “We have to react before the smugglers react,” said Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner
BERLIN: Austria announced Wednesday that it will start checks at its border crossings with Slovakia, following a similar decision by the Czech Republic, in a move that’s aimed at keeping migrants from entering.
The measure becomes effective at midnight Wednesday, the Austrian government said.
The Austrian interior ministry said the border controls are a response to the Czech Republic’s announcement, a day earlier, of controls on its border with Slovakia starting Thursday, and aim to ensure that human traffickers do not use Austria as an alternative.
“We have to react before the smugglers react,” Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner told public broadcaster ORF.
Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all belong to the European Union’s visa-free Schengen zone where people can normally cross borders without getting checked. However, temporary border controls have repeatedly been reinstated in the past, whether to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic or to stop migrants from entering illegally.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters later on Wednesday that he would meet Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic next week to discuss the issue of migration.
“The states are not doing this for their own sake, but to fight organized crime and smuggling and to reduce the pressure from the borders,” Nehammer said in Vienna.
Austria introduced controls along its borders with Hungary and Slovenia in 2015, when more than 1 million migrants from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan entered the European Union. The Alpine country has repeatedly extended those controls, which remain in place.
Back then, only about 8,500 migrants were detained in the Czech Republic, while this year so far 12,000 migrants have been detained, the Czech interior ministry said, adding that most of them were Syrians. A total of 125 human smugglers have been arrested in the Czech Republic this year, a significant increase compared with the previous years.
Most migrants don’t want to stay in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, but travel through them to reach wealthier places like Germany, Sweden or Austria.
The Austrian border controls will initially be enforced at 11 crossing to Slovakia for 10 days.

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream
Updated 28 September 2022

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream
  • Europe has been investigating what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks which had caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Wednesday said claims that Russia was somehow behind a possible attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines were stupid, adding that Moscow saw a sharp increase the profits of US companies supplying gas to Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that the incident needed to be investigated and the timings for repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.
Europe has been investigating what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks which had caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines at the center of an energy standoff.
Asked about claims Russia might somehow be behind the possible attack, Peskov said: “That’s quite predictable and also predictably stupid.”
“This is a big problem for us because, firstly, both lines of Nord Stream 2 are filled with gas — the entire system is ready to pump gas and the gas is very expensive... Now the gas is flying off into the air.”
“Before making any claims, we should wait for investigation into these ruptures, whether there was an explosion or not,” Peskov said. Information on the incident could be expected from Denmark and Sweden, he said.
Nord Stream AG, the operator of the network, said on Tuesday that three of four offshore lines of the Nord Stream gas pipeline system sustained “unprecedented” damage in one day. All Nord Stream’s pipeline had not delivered gas by the time of the incident.
Nord Stream 1 has reported a significant pressure drop caused by the gas leak on both lines of the gas pipeline, while Nord Stream 2 said that a sharp pressure drop in line A was registered on Monday.