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07 May 2008, 10:48

India set to counter Chinese net attacks

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The Indian media are reporting sustained internet-based attacks from China against Indian networks. These attacks, they say, are not just isolated incidents and are sophisticated and broad in scope. Government officials have confirmed off the record that the cyber warfare threat from China is much more serious than attacks carried out from other countries.

They believe the Chinese attackers have been scanning and mapping India's networks for around one and a half years. They are primarily using bots – approximately 50,000 of which are currently installed on Indian systems, key loggers and network topology mapping, which allows information to be gathered on how the Indian networks could be disabled, or at least degraded, in the event of a crisis. Large-scale attacks are said to have been directed against the National Infomatics Centre (NIC), and other government networks been targeted, but not disabled.

India is now making its first serious efforts to set up a defence system, although electronic warfare has yet to become a major component of India's security strategy. Dedicated but short-funded teams of specialists are currently working to deflect the daily attacks. The real weakness is that they have not yet developed a system for carrying out retaliatory strikes. It would not be difficult to develop such a system, however, as Chinese networks are porous and India is an IT giant.

A Chinese embassy official disputed these allegations, saying that the claims of Chinese government complicity with the attacks are untenable and without foundation. "The Chinese government has nothing to do with it. The Chinese government discourages such activities against all countries, including India. These reports … are not compatible with the developing trust and friendship between India and China. 'Hacking' is a worldwide phenomenon. The Chinese networks have also been victims of hacking."

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