Sources : Times News Network
Date of Publishing:12/7/2010
DIE HARD 4 IS FOR REAL
This might sound like a takeoff on the 2007 Bruce Willis movie 'Die Hard 4', in which a group of cyber terrorists attempt to stage what it calls a 'fire sale': a systematic shutdown of the nation’s vital communication and utilities infrastructure.
Or the decade old Sandra Bullock movie 'The Net', where the personal data of an individual is tampered with according to whims and fancies of bad guys. Both the movies were considered to be science fiction that could not happen in real life.
However, according to the former counterterrorism czar Richard A Clarke, it's a scenario that could very well happen in real life — and it could all go down in 15 minutes! But in real life,both the heroes will be helpless.
Last year, Brazil witnessed major cyber attacks, where the hackers caused power grid block outs. Cyber criminals took over a government website and demanded a ransom of $3,50,000 for its release. Over 3,000 employees of that government department could not access the website for more than 24 hours.
In India, the ministry of external affairs has been hacked several times. Recently, an email addressed to an army officer at the ministry of defence was mundane — a list of weapons India wanted to buy. The missive, as it was realized later, was a brilliant fake. Lurking beneath the descriptions of a long list of equipment was an insidious piece of computer code designed to suck sensitive data out of the ministry.
Had the officer clicked on the attachment, his every keystroke would have been reported back to an unknown master. It is another matter that top-secret documents at the defence ministry are not kept on computers connected to the internet.
More than 4,475 Indian web sites — government and non-government — were targeted and defaced in 2008 alone. According to Rana Gupta, director, SafeNet India, the hackers targeted information on the networks of the defence ministry, Mumbai air cargo customs, ministry of railways, National Institute of Social Defence, BSNL, TRAI and DRDO. Banking, according to CERT-In, was the most targeted sector, with 85% phishing incidents in this sector in 2008.
Hackers who peek into government networks can shut them down, at least temporarily. But is it possible for a country to deliver a crippling blow to another through cyberspace? "The answer is a definite yes. An unexpected attack on a nation’s infrastructure can be launched via the internet, in which air-traffic control is sabotaged,banking and telecom networks are disabled," Gupta pointed out.
Earlier, the cyber attacks used to be generic,but they have begun targeting infrastructure installation such as power grids, transportation, telecommunication, finance and water supplies, points out Venkatasubrahmanyam Krishnapur, senior director for engineering, McAfee.
With the exception of finance and telecommunication sectors, a large majority of the infrastructure targets are soft because they have not been designed for the IP network. Most of these systems were developed with a closed user group and limited physical access in mind. Hence, as they start integrating into a wider IP network they become more vulnerable to remote network based attacks and the resulting damage can be done quickly by a clever hacker and with little effort, he added. Stickman Consulting director Satheesh G Nair, who handles cyber attack cases, says the country needed to be cautious, especially "when we are in the process of UID". "The identity of every individual will be at stake. An attack on one installation will have a bearing on many other areas of the economy," he said. firstname.lastname@example.org
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