Srinagar: Hackers targetted the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department (PDD) on Wednesday, June 24, in what is seen as the first such incident in the region. Following the cyber attack, the authorities have launched an investigation to locate its source.
According to a senior official in the power department,they have issued an advisory asking consumers to pay bills through offline mode primarily at the banks while the online payments have been suspended for now.
"The billing cycle for this month has been generated so it did not get affected by the attack. But, the consumers have to pay bills offline at banks as online payment has been affected and the application services are down," PDD’s Chief Engineer Ajaz Dar said.
Dar said the cyber attack was carried out at about 4:45 AM on Wednesday, affecting four database servers at the department's data entree in Srinagar.
“We registered a complaint with the Cyber Crime police who provided us with valuable inputs and currently the experts are trying to retrieve it," he said.
The database consists of consumer data, revenue and billing data which puts crucial information of consumers in the region at risk. The consumers also pay bills at J&K bank branches in their respective areas.
The department has as many as 55 servers at the data centre, according to the official, who added that the cyber police instructed them to isolate all the infected servers as a measure of precaution.
“We have also called in our IT experts for an internal audit to look into the attack which falls under the category of Ransomware where the hacker encrypts all the data in the servers and locks it due to which the user fails to access it," Dar said.
The Cyber Crime police, which according to the power department officials was approached to file an FIR in the case, have launched an investigation in the incident and have issued advisories to various departments in the wake of the attack. They also have increased measures to spread awareness regarding online frauds and cyber security among departments and public in general, issuing regular updated through social media as well.
The cyber attack comes amid the India-China standoff in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LA) which has worsened in the past few days especially after 20 Indian soldiers were reportedly killed during a hand-to-hand combat in Galwan Valley.
Interestingly, Maharashtra Police has reported increased cyber attacks from China, with over 40,000 attempts by hackers based in Chengdu region in the past week. However, officials are yet to confirm the source of the attack in Kashmir as investigations are underway.