By Prarthana Mitra
The website of the Defence Ministry and several other governmental agencies crashed Friday evening in what could be a cyber-hack reported media sources. However, shortly after the crash, the Centre spoke out stating that the crash resulted from technical issues.
Gulshan Rai, National Cyber Security Coordinator said in an interview with NDTV, “There is no hacking of any nature anywhere in the Defence Ministry website.” He added, “There is hardware problem due to which the website is down. It will be up shortly.”
The websites of the ministries of law, home affairs and labour were also attacked shortly afterwards, with the following message displayed on the law ministry’s web page: “The requested service is temporarily unavailable. Sorry for Inconvenience. It would be available soon.”
Various media outlets and political analysts have since reported a curious trail left by the hackers on the website: the Chinese character for “zen” or “home”, or “not early” giving civilians enough cause for alarm.
Ministry of Defence website hacked, Chinese characters appearing on the website home page. pic.twitter.com/VBzWXLC8EM
— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2018
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted that “appropriate action” had been initiated in the matter. She added that steps would be taken to “prevent any such eventuality in the future.”
Action is initiated after the hacking of MoD website ( https://t.co/7aEc779N2b ). The website shall be restored shortly. Needless to say, every possible step required to prevent any such eventuality in the future will be taken. @DefenceMinIndia @PIB_India @PIBHindi
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) April 6, 2018
The National Informatics Centre (NIC), which maintains the websites, is trying to restore them besides investigating the glitches, a ministry spokesperson said. An official source working at the NIC clarified that the security system of the MHA website was being upgraded leading to its temporary suspension.
The centre seemed keen on shoving the matter under the rug, as it was bound to bring forth a fresh onslaught of criticism from the opposition, especially in light of the waning faith in the government.
Panic at the nerve centre
The website crash came on the same day the government released the Request for Information (RFI) for more than 100 new fighter jets worth Rs 100,000 crores, in order to deal with the simultaneous threat posed by the Pakistani and Chinese Air Forces.
As reports of Chinese involvement emerged after yesterday’s alleged hack, the Youth Congress immediately tweeted about how this compromises important government institutions and 1.35 billion people, in the eventuality of sensitive information falling into the hands of Chinese hackers.
In January, Pakistan-based hackers hijacked the website of National Security Guard (NSG) and posted anti-India content on it.
In fact, last month, the Indian Army took to Twitter to post a video warning people that Chinese hackers are using social media platforms to hack into critical infrastructure and governing systems in India. Additionally, after the border stand-off in Doklam in November, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) advised all soldiers posted on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) against using 42 social media applications including WhatsApp WeChat, Truecaller, Weibo, due to plausible security concerns.
The lack of adequate security measures in Narendra Modi’s Digital India has been an issue of concern and was brought up at the Lok Sabha earlier this year. Over 700 websites connected to the central and state governments have been hacked in the past four years. As of late Friday night, defence and labour ministry websites have been restored, although the websites of home and law ministries are still not accessible.
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