A week after an NPCIL report on a cyber-attack at the Kudankulam plant surfaced, news emerged that the country's space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was alerted of a possible malware breach, the Indian Express reported.
According to the media outlet, on 3 September the National Cyber Coordination Centre received intelligence from a US-based cybersecurity company that a malicious actor had "breached master' domain controllers' at the Kudankulam plant and the ISRO using malware".
"The National Cyber Coordination Centre has been set up under a classified project to generate necessary situational awareness of existing and potential cybersecurity threats and enable timely information-sharing", the report says.
The report sparked rumours that the alleged attempted attack sought to disrupt India's second lunar probe, Chandrayaan-2.
Cybersecurity expert Jitendra Jain has, however, dismissed these claims, saying "ISRO has got several offices in India. There cannot be just one Chandrayaan-2 in the system, so you cannot say which was attacked, at what time. Such claims are mere speculations".
On 7 September, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with the Vikram lander during the last stage of the Moon landing operation, minutes before it was due to land near the lunar South Pole.
India was hoping to make space history by successfully soft-landing on the moon's surface, and becoming only the fourth country to have accomplished the feat, after the United States, Russia and China. It would have also made India the first country to complete a soft landing near the South Pole on its first attempt.
Cyber Attack on Tamil Nadu Nuclear Plant
In a separate development earlier this week, a South Korean cybersecurity firm claimed the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in India’s Tamil Nadu state was attacked by North Korean “DTrack” malware to obtain internal information about “thorium-based nuclear power”.
In its analysis, Seoul-based IssueMake Labs also asserted that along with the plant, senior Indian nuclear scientists including former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, Anil Kakodkar, and former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Chairman, S. A. Bhardwaj, were also targeted by the hackers.
In view of these reports of cyber-attacks on critical systems in the country, there is a looming concern over public security, cybersecurity expert Jain commented, saying:
“There are government agencies looking after these attacks. With the rapid speed of digitalisation, India is yet to catch-up with the same speed of digital security. Even though the evidence in the public domain definitely indicates a compromise of machines, they do not definitively indicate the compromise of mission critical factors of the systems.
Failure or disruption of a mission’s critical factors mean a serious impact on business operations of an organisation, to the degree that they can lead to social turmoil and catastrophes.
The experts allege that North Korean hackers have continuously attempted to breach nuclear facilities and the accounts of top nuclear scientists to obtain confidential nuclear-power information from India.