How hackers almost shut down Queensland’s power grid in ransomware attack

A coalition senator has accused China of acting like a bully, following claims Chinese hackers tried to shut down two Queensland power stations.

Dec 08, 2021, updated Dec 08, 2021
CS Energy was hit with a string of problems at the Callide plant (Photo: Energy Supply and Distribution)

CS Energy was hit with a string of problems at the Callide plant (Photo: Energy Supply and Distribution)

But Queensland’s CS Energy, which was the target of the ransomware incident which occurred on its ICT network on November 27, said there was no evidence it was a state-based attack.

The Government owned generator said its power stations had continued to generate and dispatch electricity since the ransomware attack on corporate network.

Chief executive Andrew Bills said CS Energy’s ICT systems and safeguards had layers of separation and protection, which enabled it to contain and protect its critical infrastructure to ensure continuity of power to Queenslanders.

“Upon becoming aware of the incident, we quickly took further assertive action to physically separate the two environments,” Bills said.

“We continue to progressively restore our systems and are working closely with cyber security experts and relevant state and federal agencies.”

CS Energy also said the national electricity network was designed to ensure there was enough power generation and network capacity to securely meet customer demand, even in the event of unexpected outages of transmission lines and generators.

“CS Energy moved quickly to contain this incident by segregating the corporate network from other internal networks and enacting business continuity processes,” Bills said in a statement on November 30.

“We immediately notified relevant state and federal agencies, and are working closely with them and other cyber security experts.”

Bills said the event was another example of a growing trend of cyber attacks in Australia, and overseas.

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“This incident may have affected our corporate network, but we are fortunate to have a resilient and highly skilled workforce who remain focused on ensuring CS Energy continues to deliver electricity to Queenslanders.”

News Corp publications on Wednesday linked the attack, which could have shut down two thermal coal plants, to Chinese hackers, citing sources familiar with the matter.

“This just underscores how important it is to secure Australia and reduce our dependence on China, who are acting like a bully in our region,” Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan told Nine Network on Wednesday.

“This is not an attack or a suspected attack on an Australian government agency.

“It’s on a private company in Queensland.

“It’s important that we as the Australian government … help private companies protect themselves.”

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