AnonOpsIndia, the hacktivist group that has previously taken down BSNL and TRAI, apart from assorted Reliance ADAG sites and, allegedly, Reliance Jio, took down the website of the Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad yesterday. When we checked, no page was opening at the time that the site was taken down. The site is back up, and running fine now. Prior to the hack:
Previously, the group claims it had hacked the PAN card database as a means of demanding a security audit of government websites.
The group attacked the website as a form of activism against the Central Monitoring System (more on it here), which allows the government of India to intercept traffic from all telecom operators. Intercepting our calls and analyzing our data on social networking sites. Apart from the CMS, there’s also a tool called Netra, which reportedly tracks suspicious words like ‘attack’, ‘bomb’, ‘blast’ or ‘kill’ in real time on social media, emails, instant messaging services, blogs and others.
We’d also reported on a tender from the Delhi Police in 2011, wherein it sought to set up an Internet interception system for monitoring a mobile phone user’s location, calls, text messages and data usage, among others. There is also the case that the Aadhar number can be used to link multiple government databases together. Surveillance could be rife, and we would never know, because that information is protected. India doesn’t yet have a proper privacy and data protection law as well. National Security is important, as is user privacy, and with very little oversight of government agencies, what is there to prevent governments in power from using surveillance for their own purposes, rather than something that is of national importance.
The issues that AnonOpsIndia has raised are important, but their methods are, in our opinion, counterproductive and myopic: How would a government or a cabinet minister react to a cyber attack? They would use this to make the case for more conservative policies related to the Internet, for exercising tighter control on the usage of the Internet in India, and for more spending on protecting the country’s Internet connected assets against such attacks. Governments and big companies won’t change a policy because someone takes down their systems as a form of protest. They’ll change it when there is mass support for a change in policy, and arguments are presented in a rational manner.