Govt denies prime minister’s office mail was hacked; but analysts warn of cyber dangers ahead
Google’s announcement this week, that it might pull its services in China if any filters are imposed on its search results, have generally been interpreted as a reaction to finding that hacking attempts into some of its customer accounts in China might have been officially inspired. But its action, which many analysts saw as a mild mea culpa for having agreed to Chinese demands foe censorship in the first place, have not pleased everyone even on its native, US turf. A Forbes commentor writes:
“Google's actions are as irresponsible as they are brazen. Does anyone really think the Chinese government is going to bow down to the demands of a foreign media company? Google's move is similar to failed U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea….hardliners in the Chinese government may use Google as a pretext to crack down on more sites, just as Iran blocked Twitter and Facebook after they spread news of protests. Google's actions could do the opposite of opening up information flow.” Others suggest China’s news filtering policy is incompatible with her desire to be a respected commercial power. An editorial in The Guardian (UK) says: “In seeking to track down a handful of domestic enemies, whose threat to domestic stability the government overstates, the hackers have crossed other frontiers that no foreign government, let alone company, would tolerate. Undermining privacy on your own territory is one thing. Doing it on someone else's patch is another…the great firewall is a folly which can never be made to co-exist with the demands of becoming the world's largest exporter. Let it crumble, and soon.”
There were unexpected echoes in India, on Thursday after a front page splash in the Delhi tabloid Mail Today ( picked up by the groups sister sites of India Today and the TV channel Headlines Today) suggested that mail boxes of key national security officials in the Indian Prime Minister’s office had also been the target of China based backers as far back as December 16. The PMO was quoted as saying these were routine attempts that were repulsed, but later in the day, news services carried a formal denial. 'Attempts have always been there to hack our computers, but we have our security systems in place,' the Prime Minister’s media adviser Harish Khare wasa quoted as saying, 'There has been no breach on our security system, we are absolutely safe”.
Be that as it may, the reaction of Security analyst Brahma Chellaney ( quoted in the Mail Today story) still sounded like good advice: "The Chinese have been launching cyber attacks on Indian targets now and then, and it has been going on for a long time.It amounts to China stepping up military pressure on India during peace time. There is a clear message from them — that in war situations, China has the capability to cripple Indian systems.Developing counter- capability is very important." And “Naavi” the respected Cyber law specialist adds in a blog:
“India needs to first put its National Cyber Security Infrastructure in shape. Presently there is a complete lack of an unified effort of the different units of the Government that can contribute to the cause. There should therefore be a Cyber Security Task Force set up jointly by the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Home affairs and Ministry of Communications and Information Security. Ministry of Foreign Affairs need to be kept out of this security set up since their involvement would dilute the resolve.”
We at IndiaTechOnline claim no monopoly of wisdom on this subject; but we do believe the issue of cyber security, not just of nations, but as it affects every citizen, needs to be addressed urgently in India. Some of our pink newspapers on Friday have jumped to conclude that if Google does quit China, it will only be a bigger opportunity for India. That may be overstating the case but let us just say a quick ‘thank you’ for living in a country where Google or any other Internet service provider, is not required to reshape the results of a search to fit the ideological imperatives of the government in power -- Anand Parthasarathy, in Bangalore Jan 15 2010
We append links to all the sources cited in this story:
Google's Act Of War Against China:Shaun Rein, Forbes http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/14/google-china-threat-leadership-citizenship-rein.html
Great firewall of China: A colossal folly: Guardian (UK) editorial) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/14/google-china-firewall-censorship
CHINESE HACK COMPUTERS IN PM’S OFFICE : Mail Today DelhiBy Ashish Khaitan
Chines hackers target PMO: India Today
Computer systems at Indian prime minister's office not hacked into
How Do We Respond to Chinese Cyber Aggression? "Naavi"