De­fence min­istry sounds red alert on web spy­ing

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION -

New Delhi: In­dia’s de­fence estab­lish­ment has sounded a fresh red alert over the need to en­sure phys­i­cal as well as cy­ber se­cu­rity of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion in light of in­creas­ing es­pi­onage at­tempts by for­eign in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, es­pe­cially from China and Pak­istan.

Cit­ing “in­puts” from the home min­istry and else­where, the de­fence min­istry has di­rected the armed forces and other or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing un­der it to strictly im­ple­ment the fresh se­cu­rity mea­sures to pre­vent the leak of clas­si­fied mat­ter.

“De­fence per­son­nel, es­pe­cially those serv­ing in lower for­ma­tions, privy to sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to or­ga­ni­za­tion/mat­ters per­tain­ing to the armed forces con­tinue to be tar­gets of for­eign in­tel­li­gence es­pi­onage ef­forts/ agents,” said the MoD di­rec­tive, is­sued on March 12.

Some of the se­cu­rity in­struc­tions deal with mon­i­tor­ing pho­to­copy­ing ma­chines, po­lice verification of all staff em­ployed on “an out­sourced ba­sis”, re­stricted ac­cess to di­vi­sions deal­ing with con­fi­den­tial mat­ters, close watch on sus­pi­cious con­duct, caller ID spoof­ing and the like.

But the bulk of them are con­nected to cy­ber-se­cu­rity and com­puter-us­age norms. They range from strict ac­cess con­trol and proper fire­walls to bridge the “air gap” be­tween se­cure and in­se­cure net­works and curbs on use of dig­i­tal stor­age de­vices.

“There have been cases of data be­ing leaked through the use of pen-drives, re­mov­able hard disks and CDs. More­over, Chi­nese hack­ers have also bro­ken into mil­i­tary net­works through worm-in­fected USB de­vices to ex­fil­trate in­for­ma­tion,” said an of­fi­cial.

In­ter­est­ingly, in its pub­li­ca­tion, The Science of Mil­i­tary Strat­egy, this month, China for the first time ad­mit­ted that the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army has spe­cial­ized cy­ber war­fare units. While both China and Pak­istan have been bol­ster­ing their ca­pa­bil­ity to wage war in the vir­tual arena, the for­mer has made it a top mil­i­tary pri­ori- ty. “China reg­u­larly hacks into sen­si­tive com­puter net­works of coun­tries like In­dia, the US, the UK and Ger­many,” said a se­nior of­fi­cer.

“China has at least a cou­ple of hacker brigades, apart from over 30,000 com­puter pro­fes­sion­als in its mili­tia. It also has civil­ian teams em­pow­ered to un­der­take sim­i­lar in­tel­li­gence and com­puter net­work at­tacks,” he added.

Tar­geted cy­ber at­tacks can hob­ble, and even de­stroy, strate­gic net­works and en­ergy grids, and fi­nan­cial and com­mu­ni­ca­tion info-struc­tures of an ad­ver­sary. Iran, for in­stance, learnt this the hard way when the Stuxnet soft­ware “worm” crip­pled its nu­clear pro­gramme five years ago.

But even as coun­tries sharpen their cy­ber-weapons, In­dia con­tin­ues to drag its feet in set­ting up a tri-Ser­vice Cy­ber Com­mand, which was pro­posed by the chiefs of the staff com­mit­tee a cou­ple of years ago.

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