India Devastated by Hacker Attacks amidst Cyber War with Neighbouring Countries
Cybercrime is on the rise across the globe, with sophisticated ransomware attacks targeting a variety of victims, ranging from companies of all sizes to government infrastructure. India’s government disclosed new data that shows an increasing number of cyber-attacks in the country – but it seems that cyber warfare is a crucial factor in the country’s high record of being targeted by hackers.
Number of Recent Hacker Attacks Worries Parliament
The Parliament was informed in March 2018 of a devastating scale of cybersecurity breaches: from April 2017 to January 2018, more than 22,000 websites in India reported incidents. This includes 114 governments websites, as K. J. Alphons, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, informed the Members of Parliament. 493 of these hacked websites were used to launch further malware attacks, while the National Informatics Centre reported that 74 government portals that were hosted on NICNET were hit in 2017 and a further six were compromised in 2018. CERT-In was quick to act on information, issuing more than 300 security alerts about potential threats during the period from April 2017 to January 2018 but, still, the problem remains a serious one.
Hackers use a variety of methods to launch attacks against online applications, including SQL injections, cross-site scripting and zero-day threats. Online security tools like a web application firewall (WAF for short) that filter web traffic can protect against these attacks by singling out malicious requests and preventing access to the web applications. Mr Alphons advised in favour of upgrading cybersecurity controls, as most organisations seem to use vulnerable software on the servers they use to host their websites and online applications. Tools like a WAF could help protect web applications better but training also needs to be conducted so that government employees and professionals across industries understand the risks. The Minister also declared that all new state online applications and websites will be audited both before and regularly after their launch to identify potential vulnerabilities.
India Caught in Cyber War with Pakistan, China
It seems that the situation in India is made worse by the fact that the country finds itself amidst a net of attacks related to cyber warfare and espionage with neighbouring countries. According to a report published in Deutsche Welle on March 19, 2018, the Indian Army has warned WhatsApp users that Chinese hackers were using the platform to spy on Indians. The Army’s Additional Directorate General of Public Interface issued a video warning for WhatsApp users to be cautious of unknown Chinese mobile numbers starting with +86 that enter chat groups, as they are most likely mining personal data.
Last year the Army also urged soldiers stationed on the border with China to not use WhatsApp and several other applications, as they might be compromised by Chinese spies. Meanwhile, the cyber war between Indian and Pakistani hackers, which mirrors the two countries’ strained relationship, is still raging on. Hackers from Pakistan routinely hack Indian websites and post offensive material like accusations against the Indian Army. Among their latest targets were the Delhi University and the National Aeronautics Ltd. websites, in a bid to avenge an earlier Indian hacker attack on the portal of Pakistan Railways. Earlier this August, an India hacker group managed to hit the website of Pakistan’s government ahead of Independence Day and post the Indian national anthem.
With this track record, it seems that hackers attacks are not looking to cease any time soon, so both the Indian government and private companies should invest more in cybersecurity measures.