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Tamil Nadu government hit by cyber attack for second time this year, raising major questions

The latest ransomware attack brings many of the state government’s data digitisation projects into question.

Windows 7 PCs at the Tamil Nadu government's Public Department were hit by a ransomware attack, according to reports by The Hindu, The New Indian Express, and IANS. Neeraj Mittal, the state's Secretary of Information Technology, confirmed the hack to IANS, and reportedly told the wire agency, "It is true. Some computers suffered the ransomware attack," adding that the government was "trying to get back the access [to affected PCs]." MediaNama has reached out to the Public Department for comment. Top officials of the department were not reachable by phone for comment. The Hindu cited an unnamed official as saying that the hack was click-based — indicating that someone with access to the computers may have opened a suspicious link they shouldn't have — and that the impacted files include details of arrangements of high-profile visitors, a key function of the department. It is unclear if hackers merely locked access to the files or obtained copies too. The union-run Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), which has an office at Chennai's Tidel Park, is said to be working with the state government to try and recover the files. A ransomware attack locks files on a target computer, demanding users for payment — usually in cryptocurrency that is hard to trace — to release access to the files; the malware usually encrypts the files, making recovery difficult without the attacker's cooperation. Microsoft stopped providing even extended security updates to Windows 7 in 2020. This is the second major attack that…

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