The official website of Ministry of Defence was down on Friday and the government was working to restore it, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. According to officials, there were Chinese characters on the website, indicating that Chinese hackers may be involved in it. While many believed the website was hacked, the National Informatics Centre(NIC) later clarified that the website was not hacked but it was down due to some technical issue.
A message which read: “The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later” continued to flash on its home page.
“Action is initiated after the hacking of MoD website ( http://mod.nic.in ). 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,” Sitharaman tweeted.
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
An MoD official speaking with The Indian Express said, “We are seized of the matter. The National Informatics Centre, which maintains the website, is trying to restore it.”
In a statement, NIC said, “After due diligence the officials of NIC have confirmed that Ministry of Defence and any other website hosted in the NIC data centre have not been hacked and there has been no cyber attack of any nature.” Accepting that the site showed “what appeared to be a Chinese character and it was understandable that the site was perceived to be hacked”, the statement said, in fact, since late afternoon today, due to a technical issue in storage, about 10 government websites hosted in the NIC data centre became inaccessible to the public . The website of Ministry of Defence , MHA , Department of public enterprises, Election commission, EPFO, Ministry of Labor, Department of Science and Technology are up and running and the NIC team assures the citizens that services would be restored soon for the other websites, it added.
Earlier in March, a report in PTI stated that over 22,000 incidents of hacking of Indian websites were reported between April 2017 to January 2018. The report also mentioned that 114 government portals were hacked over that period. In a written reply to Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Electronics and IT K J Alphons had then stated, “As per information reported to and tracked by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), a total of 22,207 Indian websites including 114 government websites were hacked during April 2017 to January 2018. A total number of 493 affected websites were used for malware propagation.”
The minister in his response had mentioned 301 security alerts related with potential vulnerabilities and threats to multiple systems and applications were issued by CERT-In during April 2017-January 2018.
Alphons added that all new government websites and applications are yet to be audited with respect to cyber security prior to their hosting. The minister had then said, “Organisations use servers to host websites and applications for dissemination of information and providing services to users. The servers not configured properly and having vulnerable software are prone to hacking and could be misused by cyber criminals.”
Informing the Parliament about the steps taken by the government towards strategic interventions to promote artificial intelligence applications, the minister said that four committees of experts from academia, industry and government have been set up. These committees will look into areas like platforms and data for AI, leveraging AI for identifying national missions in key sectors, skilling and re-skilling, and cybersecurity, safety, legal and ethical issues.
A similar report in TOI stated that over 700 websites of central ministries/departments and of state governments were hacked between 2013 and 2016.
The website of National Security Guard (NSG), a paramilitary force comprising anti-terror crack commandos, was hacked on January 1 and abusive messages were posted on the homepage, following which the website was taken down immediately. In February, the official website of Ministry of Home Affairs became the victim of cyber crime.