Cyber attack and internet security

A group that goes by the name of the Indian Cyber Army hacked into 36 of the Pakistan Government’s websites.While the message left by the hackers has been removed, some of these websites are also temporarily out of order.

The world is at war these days, but many of these battles are now fought out of the publics’ line of sight. Where clandestine battles once involved assassination attempts on centers of power, spy wars and cloak and dagger methods, the introduction of high level technology in our daily lives has altered the rules of engagement.

Let me explain further: consider a data store or a database — every website is dependent on one. Most of our information is stored in one at some point, somewhere in some organisation and it is the essential building block of a nation’s technological infrastructure. And it is not just consumer information that is stored in these databases. Data pertaining to the national electricity grid, the communications infrastructure and other administrative departments are also maintained similarly. The rationale behind the approach is unimpeded flow of information from one network to another. So what if an intrusion occurs in a country’s sensitive information flow? Would that be any less than a declaration of war, albeit of a cyber kind?

Such wars are of key importance in today’s world. Tap a country’s important data stores and you do not even need an army to make it fall. The key to this is hacking important websites where an individual or a group of people are able to gain unauthorised root access. Usually this can be prevented by the webmaster (controller of website) using encryption to protect the information needed to break in. Hacking a website is often done to alert or to send a message to the organisation that is being targeted or in this case, the country.

There are several loosely-knit groups in India and Pakistan who have moved on from the conventional form of warfare into this new and alarming frontier. Who backs them is unknown. However, attacks are routinely carried out on each other’s government websites to sound alarm bells. In the past a team of hackers who call themselves pakhaxors b0i and another group called the Pak Cyber Army have hacked many Indian websites and even defaced some of them to reflect the message they wanted to send to the country.

While this is a cause of, at best, inconvenience (right now) to the administrators of the attacked websites, this kind of cyber battle has been going on for some time now. It is about time that the Pakistan government sits up and takes notice of such actions and increases its websites’ security and encryption levels. That being said, no matter how much security and encryption one puts up, there is always a way through and this is usually because of the large number of people involved which could easily result in a lapse of security. This could be due to carelessness such as someone who didn’t keep a password that was secure enough. We need to quickly come to terms with such attacks and realise that these could become more frequent.


As published on “The Dawn blog” on 1st dec 2010