NEW DELHI: Chinese hackers were just minutes away from shutting down power to three million Australian homes when they were foiled at the last obstacle.
On November 27, the Communist regime conducted a ‘sustained’ ransomware attack on CS Energy’s two thermal coal plants in Queensland, demonstrating what Beijing is capable of in a wartime scenario.
As staff began to lose access to their emails and other important corporate data, panic stations were set up around the energy company.
CS Energy soon realised that the cyber attackers were attempting to circumvent their internal corporate systems in order to gain access to the generators that supply 3,500MW of electricity to the grid.
If the attack is successful, it will knock off electricity to between 1.4 and 3 million homes, with no way of knowing how long it will take to retake control of the generators.
By segregating the company’s corporate and operational computer systems, IT gurus devised a remarkable last-minute manoeuvre to prevent Beijing from gaining access.
Hackers have no method of capturing control of the generators once the network was effectively split in half.
According to those familiar with the hack attempt, the cyber-attackers were less than 30 minutes away from shutting down power.
Senator James Paterson, head of the Intelligence and Security Committee, has cautioned that urgent reforms are required to strengthen Australia’s cyber defence capabilities as nations such as China and Russia become increasingly hostile.
‘Our cyber vulnerabilities are becoming more complex for two reasons: first, the more interconnected digital aspect of our lives,’ he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
‘And second, because of the developing security environment in the Indo-Pacific region, notably China’s propensity to exploit every domain available to achieve its geostrategic aims, including the cyber arena,’ says the report.
Last year, Scott Morrison revealed that a malicious’state-actor’ began a sophisticated and prolonged cyber attack into Australian banks, transportation networks, hospitals, universities, key infrastructure, and the military.
Former officials claimed the cyber attack was retaliation for Australia’s decision to ban Huawei from the national 5G network, prompting security experts to pin the finger squarely at Beijing.
The Chinese telecoms behemoth is the world’s largest 5G infrastructure builder, but Canberra barred it from participating in Australia’s critical infrastructure deployment in August 2018, citing national security concerns.
Canberra’s relationship with Beijing has deteriorated even further since then, with the totalitarian regime still enraged by the government’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Xi Jinping replied by imposing billions of dollars in arbitrary prohibitions and levies on a variety of Australian goods.
However, when it comes to cyber strikes from Beijing, Australia is not alone.
Microsoft claimed on Monday that it has ‘disrupted the activities of a China-based hacker gang known as Nickel,’ which had carried out attacks in the United States and 28 other countries.
‘We believe these assaults were primarily used to obtain intelligence from government institutions, think tanks, and human rights organisations,’ stated the software giant.
China launched cyber-attacks against Indian utilities and infrastructure sites last month, attempting to shut down a coal-fired power plant.
Taiwanese officials say their little democratic nation, barely 180 kilometres off China’s coast, receives up to ‘five million attacks each day,’ the most bulk of which are presumably directed by Beijing.
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