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[March 24, 2014]
CYBERSPOOKS HACK INTO GOVT SECRETS [Mail Today (India)]
(Mail Today (India) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Secret report says 3,000 net links compromised and 3 lakh at risk Navy chief's office, Air Force Com Centre & Cab Secretariat vulnerable INDIA'S defence communications network in Delhi seems to be defenceless.
According to a top secret survey report commissioned by the government, nation's deepest military secrets are vulnerable to cyber spooks, with 3,000 internet connections of the Defence Ministry and the Air Force Communication Centre at Vayu Bhawan having been compromised.
About three lakh modems in Delhi are also vulnerable to Domain Name System ( DNS) exploitation attacks, with servers based in foreign countries that can access sensitive information by means of phishing, traffic interception and diversion through a specific route.
The scary situation has been revealed in a report prepared by the Indian Infosec Consortium ( IIC) and submitted recently to the Ministry of Communications and IT. The report was submitted to the ministry on March 6 this year. Talking to Mail Today Rohit Srivastava, director and researcher at IIC, said Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal had assured that the matter would be looked into. Sibal too confirmed to Mail Today that he had received the report and said, " The concerned department is looking into this." A letter submitted with the report titled ' Espionage on Sensitive Indian Machines' said: " It was discovered that around 3 lakh ADSL modems are vulnerable to DNS exploitation attacks in Delhi alone. The researchers discovered another shocking aspect that several sensitive systems in Delhi, which belong to government, defence and other critical agencies, have already been compromised by external entities and their data is being routed through external servers across the globe through DNS exploitation". Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line ( ADSL) is a type of data communications technology that enables faster data transmission over copper telephone lines than a conventional voiceband modem can provide.
The list drawn up by the ISC includes the Defence Ministry in South Block, deputy secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Chief of Naval Staff in C- Wing at South Block, the Air Force Communication Centre at Vayu Bhawan, the zonal officer of the Controller of Defence Accounts at Delhi Cantonment, and the Directorate of Income Tax ( Investigation) at Jhandewalan.
" Since several critical machines belonging to our government, defence and other critical institutions have been found to be compromised, you are requested to take appropriate measures and necessary actions," the report stated. " About 3,000 internet connections in Delhi are already compromised, including those of defence and other sensitive installations. They are being accessed using servers abroad," said Rohit Srivastava, director and researcher at IIC. The researcher said the ISC had submitted a report to security agencies seeking immediate action and correction of their systems.
Over 99 per cent of the 3,000 connections surveyed by the ISC were possible victims of snooping.
The report said users of vulnerable modems could be directed to malicious servers overseas, instead of going through Domain Name System servers to a desired website. A DNS server helps to connect a user to the server that hosts the desired website. The consortium found the DNS settings of modems, also known as internet routers, had been manipulated.
The report revealed that the primary DNS internet address in the modems belonged to servers in China, Ukraine, the Netherlands and France, with most of them in the US. Normally, primary DNS servers should be on the network of the actual internet service provider. But, researchers found them belonging to malicious foreign servers that must have been used for phishing, traffic interception and diversion through a specific route. The servers located abroad may connect to the desired website or to a fake website that appears authentic.
Srivastava said it was not possible to pinpoint which country may be spying on these systems due to the complex structure of the internet.
Speaking about the danger posed by compromised and vulnerable computer systems, noted cyber expert Pavan Duggal said: " The government computer systems are not at all safe and very easy to intrude into. It means that government data stored in the systems are not safe and it can have a detrimental impact on the sovereignty of the country. This should be an eye- opener for the government." IIC is a group of 20,000 cyber security experts pitching to become the first line of cyber defence for India and to develop indigenous cyber security products.
It was mandated by the government to carry out the survey and submit a report.
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