India’s government and military have suffered one of the worst cyber attacks in the nation’s history, after over 10,000 email accounts belonging to top officials were compromised, despite a warning from the country’s cyber security agency.
The attack came on 12 July, four days after the government was warned by the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC), part of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), that some sophisticated malware was spotted targeting specific individuals and organisations.
News of the attack was revealed at a day-long NCIIPC meeting in New Delhi this week, according to the Indian Express.
Email addresses belonging to officials working at the Prime Minister’s Office, defence, home, finance and external affairs ministries and intelligence agencies were nabbed in the attack, which has been blamed on state actors.
“The Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs took the biggest hit, plus strategic information related to critical sectors, including troop deployment, was compromised,” an NTRO official told the Express.
“Paramilitary forces were also badly hit, especially the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), as deployments were revealed. There were serious cases of negligence, the involvement of insiders, if any, is also being checked.”
India’s most prolific foe in cyber space is thought to be Pakistan, but the frequent skirmishes between the two tend to involve web site defacements and the occasional DDoS attack from various hacktivist groups.
Back in March, minister for communications and IT, Sachin Pilot, revealed that over 100 government sites had been compromised in this manner between December 2011 and February 2012, while the India CERT said there were 834 defacements of .in sites in January alone.
However, the attack in July appears to have been more co-ordinated and carried out with the aim of obtaining specific information.
The NTRO was tight-lipped on the source of the attack.
“We would not like to name the state actors but D4 — destroy, disrupt, deny and degrade — process was initiated and counter offensive launched,” the NTRO official told the Express.
Back in June reports emerged that India’s National Security Council was finalising plans to give the NTRO and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) the power to carry out unspecified offensive operations if necessary. ®