The message on a defaced website reads: ‘Hacked by Team I-crew. Our heartfelt condolences to the families of CRPF jawans who sacrificed their lives in #PulwamaTerrorAttack…We will never forget #14/02/2019…We Forgive? We Forget? India Will Never!’
“It was a collective decision to launch an offensive the way we can to support the armed forces. The lives of the martyrs should not go in vain,” said a youth who is part of the collective. The members of the group are from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and several other major IT hubs of India. The teams consist of students, IT professionals and even those working with MNCs in India and abroad. They come together through platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and professional networking sites.
Sunny Vaghela, CTO of an Ahmedabad security firm and cyber security expert, said that in the past several outrages — such as the Mumbai terror attack and the Pathankot attack — have resulted in cyber flare-up from both sides. He said domain names are targeted: .in in the case of India and .pk in the case of Pakistan. “But this time, the spread is wider. Hacker groups have circulated a list of defaced sites,” he said. “One example of an attack is the release of the database of thousands of patient records of a major hospital in Pakistan. The synchronized attacks crippled some major systems.” He said that in India, sites are bracing for retaliation by improving firewalls.
Smit Shah, CEO of an Ahmedabad cyber security firm and ethical hacker, said that the attack takes place on many different levels from both sides. “D-Dos (distributed denial of service) attack cripples the server of services such as banking and transport and renders them useless for a while,” he said. “Hackers also try to identify the vulnerability of servers and change the homepage of sites.” He said that security of the Indian government sites must be boosted to thwart any attack.
A report issued by Zurich’s Risk and Resilience Team Center for Security Studies — ‘Hotspot Analysis: Regional rivalry between India Pakistan, tit-for-tat in cyberspace’ — says that between 1998 and 2017, 20 major cyber attacks have been reported from both the countries against each other. Hundreds of websites were targeted. Majority of these synchronized attacks coincided with major events or days such as the Independence Day and the Republic Day.