Turkey’s blackout: Did a cyber attack cause grid outage?

Turkish blackout result of cyberattack
Speculative reports indicate that Iranian hacker group Parastoo was responsible for Turkey’s blackout that left 40 million people without power

Media reports are indicating that a blackout in Southern Europe that left much of Turkey in the dark on 31 March was caused by a cyber attack originating from Iran.

Reports from Bloomberg and the UK’s Observer newspaper speculate that the 12-hour outage may be due to Turkey’s support of Saudi Arabia in a dispute against Yemen.

It is believed that Parastoo, an Iranian hacker group, is responsible for the attack, and it may be recruiting hackers with the skills to breach industrial control systems of the type used in power utilities.

While originally reported that human error and technical faults were the cause of the blackout, which left 40 million people without electricity, reports have been increasingly pointing to a cyber-element to the outage.

The electricity crisis resulted in the resignation of the head of the Turkish grid operator Kemal Yildir.

According to ITProPortal, the attack on Turkey has raised fears that London and New York may be vulnerable to utility ‘cyber strikes’ as it indicates Iran’s ability to launch a sophisticated cyber-attack is far more advanced than previously believed.

Iran was previously believed to be behind the attack on Saudi oil and gas giant Aramco, which disrupted production for almost a week and was responsible for the destruction of over 2,000 computers.

Turkey moves to smart grid technology

In May 2015, Metering.com reported that Turkey’s Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology is working on future technologies to transform current networks into smart energy networks.

Fikri Işık said the ministry is looking to improve the quality of Turkey’s energy production as well as develop high value-added technology products.

“The energy sector has an important role to play in the success story of Turkey, which is the 17th biggest economy in the world and the sixth biggest economy in Europe,” said Mr Işık.

Turkey consumes twice as much energy as it did 12 years ago, however, in terms of electricity consumption per person, total consumption is 3,237 kWh below the OCED average of 6,000 kWh, according to local news source Daily Sabah.