Center Of Excellence (CoE) For Internet Of Things (IoT) In India

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cyber Espionage Against India And Its Challenges, Solutions And Defences

If we analyse the Cyber Attacks Trends against India for the past few years it would be apparent that the frequency and sophistication of these Cyber Attacks has increased and developed a lot. The Cyber Attack by the Chinese Crackers at the computers in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) of India in December 2009 is one such example.

In this incidence, the Crackers targeted India's key National Security Peoples including National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar, PM's Special Envoy Shyam Saran and Deputy National Security Advisor Shekhar Dutt. The four and up to 26 others were specifically targeted in the Cracking exercise that was very successful.

The Cyber Espionage attack was very sophisticated and well executed. The E-Mail was routed through multiple proxy servers to defeat the Traceability. The Cracking Spyware was embedded in a PDF document to get it executed once opened. The Trojan Malware was programmed to carry out multiple functions, including downloading malicious files, accessing E-Mails and passwords and also accessing the desktop from a remote location.

In another incidence, it was reported that the Chinese Intelligence Agencies may have planted Malware in Computers and broken into the Headquarters of 33 Corps, the Army formation looking after most of the North-Eastern border with China. The Cyber Intrusion also planted a Trojan Horse to give Chinese Agencies remote access to the computer network at the 33 Corps Headquarters in Sukhna, near Siliguri, West Bengal.
In another incidence, many Computers of the Home Ministry were found infected with Malware. Reacting sharply, but wrongly, to these developments, the Union Home Ministry decided to ban the use of Internet by the lower rank staff up to section officers.

This was a “Defective Strategy” as banning use of Internet or Technology rather then developing Cyber Security Capabilities in India can never be a good choice. It is better to “Train” the staff rather than prohibiting them from using Internet.

The Home Ministry was barking the wrong tree as Security through Obscurity and Non-Access in itself and without further steps to develop Cyber Skills and Capabilities is a bad choice. The Government of India must concentrate upon “Capacity Development” of not only its employees but also its core Departments and Offices in order to tackle Cyber Espionage Attacks. Thus, Cyber Security Capabilities of India must be strengthened as soon as possible.

Cyber Espionage may be committed by an Insider or an outsider with the help of Internet and Computer. The problem is that Cyber Espionage is inexpensive and relatively easy to commit and it is also difficult to prove with absolute certainty. This is more so regarding “Authorship Attribution” that can pin point the liability to a Nation/Individual/Organisation.

Authorship Attribution is an important aspect of “Determining the Culpability” of an offender where the means to commit the offence are common and accessible to many people simultaneously. Data Mining and Profiling of the accused to “Attribute Culpability” to him/her alone is an emerging area of Cyber Crime Investigation but it is still far from perfect.

Having an effective Cyber Security Mechanism at place can help in prevention of majority of Cyber Espionage issues, but there is no full proof method of preventing Cyber Espionage. With adequate resources and time, a Cracker can penetrate and exploit the intended target.

The Cyber Security Policy of India must be urgently formulated that must incorporate provisions regarding Cyber Warfare, Cyber Terrorism, Critical Infrastructure Protection, Cyber Espionage, etc. In the ultimate analysis, enhancing Cyber Security of India is the ultimate solution.

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