India has not been able to identify the criminals behind cyber attacks against government establishments that were used to transmit classified information to overseas servers.
“It may be noted that due to complexities of the cyber domain, it has been difficult to identify the exact beneficiaries of these attacks,” Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth wrote to top bureaucrats of all government departments last Thursday while seeking strict compliance of cyber security policy at offices.
He warned that the country’s cyber space was witnessing an increase in “structured attacks” and added that cyber espionage was the main intention as most computers were found to have transmitted “classified information to transit servers placed outside the country”. However, he did not name any country.
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Cyber attacks on India increased from about 13,000 in 2011 to 62,000 till mid-2014, with most originating from cyber space of a number of countries including the US, Europe, Brazil, Turkey, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria and the UAE, said a 2014 report by Computer Emergency Response Team-India.
“One of the main reasons being attributed to such attack is the non-adherence to basic cyber security policy and the extant guidelines by the departments due to which prophylactic measures to prevent the pilferage of data could not be put in place,” Seth wrote on February 5.
This, he said, was evident from the modus operandi of the attacks where “alluring mails” with malicious attachments or links were sent to officers. When opened, malware got executed and exploited vulnerabilities of the computer system.
In other cases, malware got transferred on to a computer through use of unauthorised external memory storage devices like pen drives and compromised the computer, which further infected other systems on the network.
All department heads have been told to ensure “strict compliance” of security instructions provided under National Information Security Policy and Guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cyber Security Policies issued by Department of Information Technology.