Monday, 1 August 2011

Chinese hacked CWG data for months

Among the spate of cyber attacks on Indian targets ahead of the October 2010 Commonwealth Games was one that was much more purposeful than others intended to deface sites related to the event.

A possibly state-authored attack on an Indian government agency successfully breached defences and the intrusion lasted one month in September and was repeated in November.

The attack was discovered when a foreign firm specialising in cyber security found a command and control centre used by the intruders and traced logs going back to 2006. The intrusion into the unnamed Indian agency was detected from the centre and was seen to be part of a well-targeted effort to access confidential data.

After the CWG, Indian authorities said hundreds of cyber attacks from Chinese and Pakistani hackers were repulsed. These were largely aimed at sites like the one carrying events and news of the sporting event while some of the attacks were aimed at the scoring and timing programmes. The one detected by the cyber solutions firm McAfee was part of an operation called 'Shady RAT' by investigators and was seen to be Chinese controlled.

There were cyber intrusions into several official sites including PMO and cabinet secretariat earlier in 2010 which were also tracked to Chinese hackers. Aimed at official sites ending with .nic.in addresses, the hacking was not as systematic and was largely random. Officials said the hacking did not touch the secure office intranet that is used within PMO and other sensitive offices.

What is surprising is that the September 2010 intrusion lasted two months with an interval in between. Depending on the sensitivity of the agency involved, the slip might have been costly as the study showed that more than 70 victims of the covert programme led to loss of a massive amount of data. Most of the victims were American government offices and businesses while the interest of the hackers in certain western and Asian Olympic associations just before the Beijing Olympics and in Taiwan suggested a Chinese origin, although the study did not name any entity.

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