According to official Australian sources, millions of citizens were minutes away from losing power as a result of a cyber-attack apparently carried out by Chinese hackers against CS Energy, a major power grid.
The ransomware attack was carried out on Nov. 27, and although specialists managed to stop it at the last minute, it left Australian authorities and its inhabitants experiencing first-hand the vulnerability they have to the Chinese communist regime, Australian media reported.
The attack on CS Energy was stopped at the last minute before it had the potential to block two major thermal coal plants. Had it succeeded, 3,500 megawatts of power would have been removed from the grid, enough to leave between 1.4 and three million homes without power.
The private company would have acted very quickly and in cooperation with federal and state agencies to contain the attack.
CS Energy CEO Andrew Bills assured the media that the company worked quickly to isolate the corporate grid at the Callide and Kogan Creek power plants so those generators could escape the impact.
“We immediately notified relevant state and federal agencies, and are working closely with them and other cyber security experts,” The Australian reported.
Bills went on to say that the next goal is to restore network security so that this type of situation that concerned employees, customers and business partners does not happen again.
He also mentioned his concern that these types of events seem to be increasingly recurring, and if successful the consequences could be catastrophic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference on Wednesday defended his government and the various agencies involved in the matter saying that Australian cyber authorities played a crucial role in stopping the attack.
“The Australian Government took early action in engaging with those who were directly under threat, and we were able to ensure that the worst of those scenarios did not eventuate,” Morrison said.
Although politicians and media claimed the attack was perpetrated by Chinese hackers, Morrison declined to confirm such reports.
Nigel Phair, director of the Cyber Security Institute at UNSW (University of Sydney) was categorical in warning that Chinese government hackers could turn off the lights in Australia at any time if they decide to launch a massive cyber war, the Daily Mail reported.
Successful action in this regard could result in power plants, hospitals, banks and logistics companies, among many others, being breached, thus leaving the entire country paralyzed.
“Chinese hackers are very well organized, technically adept and state-sponsored,” Phair said.
“There is a huge danger that they could switch off Australia. You’d be naive to think otherwise,” he went on to say.
In this sense, the specialist sought to put pressure on private companies and federal agencies to become aware of the danger and invest enough to counter these types of attacks and limit dependence on the Chinese communist regime.