13-04-2010 computer hacking matter

 13-04-2010, Department of Information Technology (DIT), Ministry of comm. & IT
 No.1(31)/2010-PIO(RTI), 17-05-2010, from Dept.of IT
Kindly provide me answers to the following questions regarding the recent hacking of computers in India. (Please refer to news reports on 7 April 2010, China cyber spies target India, Dala Lama- report at http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-47473520100407)

Q1. Has an investigation been launched by the Government into this hacking? What is the process for interacting with the investigation team?

Q2. Of the total systems hacked, what percentage of them were running Microsoft Windows?

Q3. What entities outside of government, in the NGO or private sectors, were affected by this hacking, to the best knowledge of your investigators?

Q4. By when can security recommendations emanating from the investigation be expected?
 Reference your request dated 13-04-2010 received on 16-04-2010 regarding recent hacking of computers in India on the above subject.

The requisite information as received from the concerned division is enclosed for your reference and records.

In case you intent to going for an appeal in connection with above, you may appeal to the Appellate Authority as under:
Shri N.Ravi Shanker,
Joint Secretary & Appellate Authority (RTI)
(M/o Communications and IT), Electronics Niketan, 6 CGO Complex, New Delhi- 110003

No.3(15)/2006-CERT-In PtIII, DIT, 17-05-2010
Prof. Mehta has submitted an application to JD & PIO (RTI), DIT, MCIT in respect of the recent hacking of computers in India referring to news report on 7th April 2001, A report at http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-47473520100407 requesting the following information:
............ Q1, 2, 3, and 4 ...............

2. Draft reply is placed below:

The article of Reuters is referring to report titled "Shadow in the cloud".
Interview published by India Today with one of the authors of the report is attached as Annexure I. Excerpts of report indicating concerned agency of Government of India is attached a Annexure II. For further information the concerned agency may be approached.

If approved we may furnish the information to CPIO(RTI), DIT.

Attachment:
China cyber-spies target India, Dalai Lama- report

Wed Apr 7, 2010 7:55am IST

A Chinese Internet user browses for information on the popular search engine Google in Beijing January 25, 2006. A cyber-espionage group based in southwest China stole documents from the Indian Defence Ministry and emails from the Dalai Lama's office, a group of Canadian researchers said in a report released on Tuesday. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

A Chinese Internet user browses for information on the popular search engine Google in Beijing January 25, 2006. A cyber-espionage group based in southwest China stole documents from the Indian Defence Ministry and emails from the Dalai Lama's office, a group of Canadian researchers said in a report released on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

By Lucy Hornby and David Ljunggren

BEIJING/OTTAWA (Reuters) - A cyber-espionage group based in southwest China stole documents from the Indian Defence Ministry and emails from the Dalai Lama's office, Canadian researchers said in a report on Tuesday.

The cyber-spies used popular online services, including Twitter, Google Groups and Yahoo Mail, to hack into computers, ultimately directing them to communicate with command and control servers in China.

The report, entitled "Shadows in the Clouds", said the spy network was likely run by individuals with connections to the Chinese criminal underworld. Information might have been passed to branches of the Chinese government, it added.

"We did not find any hard evidence that links these attacks to the Chinese government," said Nart Villeneuve, who, like the other authors of the report, is a researcher at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

"We've actually had very healthy co-operation with the Chinese computer emergency response team, who are actively working to understand what we've uncovered and have indicated they will work to deal with this ... It's been a very encouraging development," Villeneuve told a Toronto news conference.

In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Chinese "policy is very clear. We resolutely oppose all Internet crime, including hacking."

A year ago, the same researchers described a systematic cyber-infiltration of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which they dubbed GhostNet.

"The social media clouds of cyberspace we rely upon today have a dark, hidden core, There is a vast subterranean ecosystem to cyberspace within which criminal and espionage networks thrive," said the Munk School's Ron Diebert.

Attacks using online social networks to gain trust and access have garnered more attention since Google announced in January that it, along with more than 20 other companies, had suffered hacking attacks out of China. Google ultimately withdrew its Chinese-language search service from the mainland.

The data gathered by the researchers showed that security breaches at one group can result in the theft of confidential information from another organization, a factor that makes it hard to distinguish the ultimate origins of the cyber-spying.

"Anti-virus systems as they stand at the moment are not terribly effective with these kinds of targeted attacks," said researcher Greg Walton, advising the use of digital signatures and software that strips out all attachments from emails.

Stolen documents recovered by the researchers contained sensitive data taken from India's National Security Council Secretariat. They included secret assessments of the security situation in northeastern states bordering Tibet, Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as insurgencies by Maoists.

Information supplied by visa-seekers to the Indian embassy in Afghanistan and the Indian and Pakistani embassies in the United States were also compromised, the report said.

"We have heard about the hacking report and the concerned department is looking into the case," said Sitanshu Kar, a spokesman for the Indian Defence Ministry.

Some command and control centers listed in the GhostNet report went offline but provided leads for the latest probe.

Internet domains used in both attacks resolved to an IP address in Chongqing, a large city in southwest China, while addresses in the nearby city of Chengdu were used to control Yahoo Mail accounts used in the attacks, the report said.

It traced part of the network to individuals in Chengdu who are graduates of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and alleged to have links with the Chinese hacking community.

The researchers said that taking emails from the Dalai Lama's office allowed the spies to track who might be contacting the Tibetan spiritual leader, who China accuses of seeking Tibetan independence.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim, Sugita Katyal and Rob Wilson)

 
Annexure:
China's cyber espionage - tip of a very large iceberg: Investigator
Sandeep Unnithan
New Delhi, April 6, 2010

Associate Editor Sandeep Unnithan spoke to Greg Walton, one of the Information Warfare Monitor investigators who put together the 'Shadows in the Cloud', a 10-month investigation detailing China's espionage directed against Indian govt computers.
 
Q) Would you call this the largest cyber-espionage operations? In sheer size, is it bigger than GhostNet (the cyber espionage network uncovered in 2009)?

A) This is India's 0-day [zero day]. The most recent wave of targeted malware attacks from Chinese servers which the Indian government determined began on December 15, 2009 - incidentally, almost simultaneous with the consensus timeline for the opening salvo that lead to the Google breaches - but what our team has uncovered here is the tip of a very large iceberg, that largely goes unreported outside of the intelligence and security community. It's our view that it's high time that policy makers, academics, civil society and other stakeholders - including the general public became more aware of these issues. The detection and takedown of criminal botnets by inter-disciplinary teams of cyber security researchers is increasingly commonplace, however, the exposure and takedown of what we characterize in our report as cyber crime morphing into cyber espionage networks is less widely reported on and analysed. It's hard to measure in terms of sheer size or scale. I think a more appropriate assessment would be based on factors such as the aggregation of actionable intelligence on the basis of the institutions compromised - and the documents exfiltrated.

Q) What kind of cooperation did you get from the Indian authorities?
 
A)I have had limited interaction with the Indian authorities at this stage, but I must say, we found the government officers that we notified of  this very serious matter to be very professional and cooperated to the fullest extent possible in the circumstances. My sense is that there is a real concentration of very talented and dedicated specialists at that agency working around the clock to protect India's critical digital infrastructure from these sort of attacks. Moreover, we were relieved to infer or to imply from our brief discussions that the government agency was running a parallel investigation that was looking at closely related command and control networks, also based in china. We very much hope that the findings from our investigation will be of use to that agency.

Q) Your study mentions the origin of these attacks being Chengdu, Sichuan province, also the HQ of the PLA's SIGINT bureau.

A) The Chengdu SIGINT station in Sichuan operates the PLA's Third Department's collection targeting India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. 
 
Q) In your opinion, is there enough evidence to suggest that the Chinese government is behind these attacks?
 
A) No, there is not. This is an ongoing investigation and attribution in these kinds of scenarios is very challenging.

Q) What use would the data recovered from hacked computers-- classified presenatations, emails from foreign ministries and defence depts-- be for ordinary hackers i.e. is there a precedent to such information being sold to government et? Or is it safe to assume that such information would be of use only to governments?

A) The majority of data stolen by Shadownet is - as you say - of particular interest to an entity like the Third Department of the PLA - but it could be of interest to many other actors - state and non-state - in China and around the world. There is a growing body of evidence to support the hypothesis that there is a criminal - intelligence nexus or ecosystem where stolen data - of value to Chinese intelligence is traded on black markets.




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