Current Affairs 2nd March

‘Cyber sabotage led to Oct. 2020 outage’ #GS3 #Security

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said an investigation by the State cybercrime unit has shown a possible cyber sabotage of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) server resulting in power outage across Mumbai on October 12, 2020.

Mr. Deshmukh’s statement comes in the backdrop of an exclusive report by the New York Times linking the power outage with alleged Chinese state-sponsored cyber intrusion, which had been tracked and revealed by U.S. cyber security and intelligence firm Recorded Future.

Maharashtra Power Department had sought an inquiry into the incident based on which we had asked Inspector General of the State cyber-crime unit to conduct an inquiry. An analysis of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) has shown that there is a possibility that this incident was a cyber sabotage. The department has given a report which we have handed over to the Power Department.

The preliminary report pointed out three possible modes of sabotage — a malware attack on the server of the MSEB, transfer of 8 GB unaccounted data from foreign server to MSEB server, and attempt by several blacklisted I.P. addresses to log into MSEB server.

Benefit of the NewsAbout Cyber sabotage

IIT-Delhi researchers develop technology to recycle e-waste #GS3 #SnT

To deal with one of the fastest growing waste streams, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi have developed a zero-emission technology to manage and recycle e-waste to wealth.

It said a team led by K.K. Pant and his research group in the Catalytic Reaction Engineering Laboratory at Chemical Engineering Department have adopted a methodology that uses e-waste as an “Urban Mine” for metal recovery and energy production. 

Researchers said using their method, e-waste is shredded and pyrolyzed to yield liquid and gaseous fuels, leaving behind a metal-rich solid fraction. On further separation using a novel technique, the leftover solid residue yields a 90-95% pure metal mixture and some carbonaceous materials. 

The carbonaceous material is further converted to aerogel for oil spillage cleaning, dye removal, carbon dioxide capture, and use in supercapacitors. The technology is an outcome of a Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, funded project and developed technology will cater to the need of “Smart Cities,” “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiatives of the government.

Chinese may have targeted power systems, ports, says U.S. firm #GS3 #Security

Chinese state-sponsored actors may have deployed malware into Indian power grids and seaports as border tensions between India and China began escalating last May, culminating in a deadly clash along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in mid-June. 

The alleged cyber-intrusion was discovered and revealed by U.S. cyber security and intelligence firm, Recorded Future, according to The New York Times , which broke the story. An October 12 grid failure in Mumbai may have been caused by the Chinese malware, as per the report.

The Massachusetts-based firm found that in the lead-up to the clashes, they noticed an increase in malware targeting the government, defence organisations and the public sector. The Power Ministry confirmed that while attempts to breach systems were made, the sector had not been impacted.

Recorded Future told The Hindu that there is still some evidence of ongoing intrusion although a significant amount of it has subsided recently.

‘Govt. was alerted’

“There is evidence that some of the intrusions remain ongoing; however, a significant proportion of the activity appeared to cease in early to mid-February following notification,” a spokesperson for Recorded Future, Caitlin Mattingly, told The Hindu via email on Monday.

While the government has not contacted Recorded Future since The New York Times published its report, according to Ms. Mattingly, the company had been in touch with the government prior to the report’s publication. The intrusions, which began in May 2020 continued throughout the year.

The New York Times report quoted Recorded Future COO Stuart Solomon as saying the Chinese state-sponsored group (which the company calls ‘Red Echo’) “has been seen to systematically utilise advanced cyber intrusion techniques to quietly gain a foothold in nearly a dozen critical nodes across the Indian power generation and transmission infrastructure.”

Specifically, Recorded Future identified 21 IP addresses targeting 10 power organisations (RLDCs and SLDCs — Regional Load Despatch Centres and their State counterparts) and two seaports: the V.O. Chidambaranar Port and Mumbai Port Trust. Other intrusions included a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired thermal power plant.

The report links the malware attacks to a massive power outage in Mumbai and its suburbs last October which impacted hospitals, businesses, the stock market, homes and transport systems.

“Additionally, local media reporting previously linked an October 2020 power outage in Mumbai to the identification of malware at a Padgha-based State Load Despatch Centre. At this time, the alleged link between the outage and the discovery of the unspecified malware variant remains unsubstantiated. However, this disclosure provides additional evidence suggesting the coordinated targeting of Indian Load Despatch Centres,” the report says.

“The intrusions in May 2020 onwards, which were China-linked but separate to the Red Echo activity highlighted in the report, were all reported to the Indian government shortly after discovery,” the spokesperson said.

Both the U.S. and Indian authorities had been informed and acknowledged receipt of the information and said they would investigate the findings, she added.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hindu they were aware of the reports. “In general, we continue to have concerns about states’ dangerous and coercive actions, including in cyberspace, and we reaffirm the importance of joint action on cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and supply chain security,” the spokesperson said.

Irresponsible: Beijing

China’s Foreign Ministry hit out at the report, calling it “irresponsible”, and attacked it for not offering evidence. “China firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of cyber attacks,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

“Speculation and fabrication have no role to play on the issue of cyber attacks, as it is very difficult to trace the origin of a cyber attack,” Mr Wang said. He said it was “highly irresponsible to accuse a particular party when there is no sufficient evidence around,” adding that “China is firmly opposed to such irresponsible and ill-intentioned practice.”

WhatsApp’s new policy being examined: govt. #GS3 #SnT

The Central government on Monday informed the Delhi High Court that it was examining WhatsApp’s controversial new privacy policy, which is scheduled to come into effect from May 15, at the highest level.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva — who was hearing a petition against the instant messaging platform’s new policy — granted three weeks time to the Centre to submit a status report on the issue. The court posted the case for further hearing on April 19.

During the hearing, the Centre said it was in the process of gathering more clarity on the issue and was seeking clarifications from WhatsApp.

Earlier, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Centre, had said: “The privacy policy offered by WhatsApp to its European users, specifically prohibition of any information shared with Facebook, while this provision is not present in the privacy policy offered to Indian citizens — who form a very substantial part of WhatsApp user base. This differential treatment is a cause of concern to the government.”

The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla , who has claimed that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy violates the right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution. The plea said the new policy “virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity” without there being any supervision of the government.

The plea sought direction to issue guidelines to ensure such change in privacy policy by WhatsApp are carried out.

Food processing revolution overdue for decades: PM #GS3 #Economy

The time has come to increase the private sector participation in all areas of agricultural research and development as well as in the food processing space, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing a webinar on Monday on budget announcements for the farm sector, he said a food processing revolution was now overdue for several decades.

“In the 21st century, in a time of increasing agricultural production, India needs a post-harvest food processing revolution, with a focus on value addition. It would have been good for the country had this been done two to three decades back,” said the Prime Minister.

In order to ensure that such a revolution takes place speedily, apart from the participation of farmers, public-private partnerships were also needed. It was critical that storage facilities and processing units were available near the fields, he said. Lakhs of existing micro-processing units needed to be equipped to expand, through handholding by Farmer Producer Organisations. “We must increase the number of agro-industry clusters near the villages, so that the people in the villages can get employment related to farming in the village itself,” he said.

Mr. Modi emphasised that the scope of this Indian food processing revolution must be global. “It is the need of the hour to ensure that our farmers get as many options as possible to market their produce. We have to integrate our agricultural produce into the global processed foods market,” he said. The Prime Minister lamented the fact that Indian fish was now processed in East Asia before reaching the international market, resulting in a loss of business opportunities for the fisheries sector in the country. Seaweed, beeswax, millets, coarse cereals and organic vegetables were the other sectors with significant potential, he said.

Mr. Modi urged the private R&D sector to go beyond the seed industry alone, and expand their focus to the whole life cycle of a crop.

He noted that contract farming had been present in the country in different forms for a long time, adding that it should not be viewed purely through the lens of business. Rather, corporates engaging in contract farming had a responsibility to bring the best facilities and technology to the country’s small farmers