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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

From Today's Papers - 07 Apr 2010





Chinese hackers have India’s top secrets Cyber Espionage: Govt, military computers compromised 
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 6 Chinese hackers have reportedly broken into Indian government’s computers and stolen top-secret files of the Defence Ministry and other sensitive documents.  A Canada-based organisation — Information Warfare Monitor Shadowserver Foundation — in its 58-page report, has revealed that hackers have been indulging in espionage activities and stealing documents relating to missile operations, intelligence agencies and diplomatic ties with other nations.  In the investigations conducted over eight months, the report — “Shadows in the cloud; investigating cyber espionage 2.0 ” — claimed that systematic cyber espionage was carried out from servers located in China that compromised the government, business, academic, corporate and other computer network systems in India. The Defence Ministry, which got the copies of the report today, has ordered an internal fact-finding inquiry. Sources said the report seems to be correct but a probe will exactly reveal the extent of damage.  In total, a whopping 2,945 computers in India have been compromised. Among the defence systems leaked out could be the Shakti, the just introduced advanced artillery combat and control system of the Army, the country’s new mobile missile defence system called the Iron Dome, ‘Pechora Missile System’ — anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles and DRDO’s intelligence fusion and technologies for monitoring and analysing network data.  Computers of the Military Engineering Services (MES), a construction agency of the Army, Navy and Air Force were also hacked to find out what kind of construction was go on. The MES at Bengdubi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Jalandhar, respectively, were compromised to steal scheduling of specific engineering projects.  Computers linked with the 21 Mountain Artillery Brigade in Assam, the Air Force Station, Race Course, New Delhi and the Air Force Station, Darjipura Vadodara, Gujarat were also hacked.  The computers at the Army Institute of Technology in Pune and the Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering in Secunderabad were also compromised.  From the government, hackers stole encrypted diplomatic correspondence, documents marked as secret, restricted and confidential.  The report says: “We have no evidence of the involvement Chinese government”. But it goes on to indicate strong links of the hackers to Chengdu in the Sichuan province. The attackers used Yahoo Mail accounts as command and control servers. These are mostly underground hackers, who use a “shadow” server to track actual severs of major internet service providers.  The report talks about theft of e-mails from the Dalai Lama’s office between January and November 2009.  Diplomatic missions and government entities exchange sensitive information. “During our investigation, we recovered documents that are extremely sensitive from a national security perspective as well as documents that contain sensitive information that could be exploited by an adversary for intelligence purposes”, says the report.  A computer in the National Security Council Secretariat — working under the PM — was hacked and secret assessments of India’s security situation in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as concerning the Naxalites, was stolen.  In addition, confidential information on India’s diplomatic relations with Russia, Commonwealth countries, the Middle East and Africa, was also stolen. Computers at the foreign missions of India at Kabul, Moscow, Dubai, Nigeria were compromised too.   At risk  n Major missile and armament systems  n Intelligence agencies  n Diplomatic ties  n Foreign projects  n Big establishments






Bloodbath by Naxals n 76 securitymen gunned down in Red bastion n 1,000 rebels ambush 100 CRPF, police personnel 
Raipur, April 6 In the bloodiest attack on the security forces, the Naxals today trapped and gunned down 75 personnel during a joint “Operation Green Hunt” offensive against the ultras in the thick forests of Mukrana in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, a stronghold of the Maoists.  The incident took place between 6 am and 7 am while around 100 personnel of the CRPF and the state police were returning after opening a road for the troops to begin an operation against the Naxals.  While 74 of those killed were CRPF personnel, including a deputy and an assistant commandant, one was a head constable of the district police.  Dantewada SP Amresh Mishra said the Naxals first blew up a vehicle carrying the CRPF personnel near Chintalnar-Tarmetla village in the district. Immediately after the blast, the CRPF personnel and a few police personnel tried to take cover when they came under heavy fire from hundreds of Naxals.  The CRPF team had been camping in the interiors of Tarmetla jungles for the past three days as part of a combing operation and area domination exercise, Mishra said.  The attack shook the Centre and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Home Minister P Chidambaram over telephone to make an assessment of the situation. Both of them expressed shock over the attack and grief over the loss of lives.  The National Security Council met under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister and is understood to have discussed the deadliest Maoist strike. Chidambaram, some of his cabinet colleagues and the three service chiefs attended the meeting.  While the Prime Minister called it a “horrific” incident, Chidambaram said it showed the brutality and savagery of the Maoists.  Rattled by the “very high” casualty, Chidambaram said something must have gone “drastically wrong” in the joint operation as the personnel seemed to have walked into a trap.  Bodies of 75 personnel have been found from the site of the attack suspected to have been carried out by about 1,000 Naxals, Inspector General RK Vij said.  The Naxals had planted IEDs that blew up an anti-mine vehicle killing the lone occupant, the driver. This was followed by heavy exchange of fire between CRPF personnel and the Maoists. — PTI







China denies hacking Indian defence websites
Press Trust of India, Tuesday April 6, 2010, Beijing China has dismissed reports that Chinese hackers have broken into top secret files of the Indian Defence Ministry and embassies around the world, saying that it was firmly opposed to hacking and regards it as an international crime.  "We have been hearing frequently these kind of news and I do not know the purpose to stir up issues," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said, replying to questions about reports of hacking of sensitive Indian sites in the media on Tuesday.  "Some people spread some information regarding the so-called China hacking activities. On this issue our policy is very clear and we are firmly opposed to all kinds of hacking activities through internet," she said, adding "Hacking is an international crime and all nations should join hands to deal with hacking crimes.  A new report called 'Shadow in the Clouds' by Canadian and American researchers based at the University of Toronto has said that a spy operation called 'Shadow Network' based out of China has tapped into top secret files of the Indian government.  Major Indian missile and armament systems may have been compromised as Chinese hackers have reportedly broken into top secret files of the Indian Defence Ministry and embassies around the world.  Among the systems leaked out could be Shakti, the just introduced advanced artillery combat and control system of the Indian Army and the country's new mobile missile defence system called the Iron Dome.  Jiang said China has already joined series of international and regional cooperation mechanisms including APEC- "we initiated relevant initiatives within ASEAN and SCO also". "We have noted the relevant cooperation to counter hacking activities".  The foreign ministry official said the issues have already been noted by the competent authorities, but the people "who are spreading such rumours have not given any formal representation with the competent authorities of China".  "I do not know the purpose of such media reports," Jiang said.  In the investigations conducted over eight months, the report by Canadian and American researchers claimed that systematic cyber espionage was carried out from servers located in China that "compromised" government, business, academic and other computer network systems in India.








China should back India for permanent UNSC seat: Krishna
K J M Varma/PTI / Beijing April 06, 2010, 12:50 IST  Seeking China's backing for a permanent UNSC seat for India, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today called on Beijing to 'review' its policies on UN reforms to 'welcome' its neighbour to the core group of the world body.  "Indeed, even on the complex issue of UN reforms, it is time for China to review previously held positions and welcome the presence of in the Security Council of a nation with which it has much in common," Krishna said speaking on the topic 'India and China in the 21st century world' at a prominent think tank here.  He said the interests of India and China converged on several issues, including climate change and world trade, and the two nations could boost each other through active cooperation.  "As developing societies our convergence is manifest on issues like climate change and global trade rules. Given their shared interest in creating a more contemporary order the two counties can advance their respective interest much better through active cooperation," he said.  China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been saying that it supports India's aspirations to play an important role at the UN, but wants an overall reform of the world body. China has also not backed Japan, the other Asian contender for a permanent UNSC seat.  Krishna, who began his four-day visit to China last night was expected to take up the issue during his talks with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi and Premier Wen Jiabao tomorrow.  In his address and later in the interaction with the media, Krishna presented an upbeat picture of the Sino-Indian ties saying that bilateral issues between the two countries are "under total control" and the two countries have evolved a mechanism to solve complex issues like boundary demarcation.  Counselling patience to resolve the border issue he said "we have agreed upon a mechanism in order to find a mutually acceptable solution to this complex problem".  The special representatives of the two countries have had 13 meetings so far.  "It is going to be a time consuming affair and one has to be patient to deal with it. The special representatives are aware of their responsibilities and we hope a mutually acceptable solution can be arrived at," he said.








Why Naxals can easily set up deadly ambushes
Last updated on: April 06, 2010 17:06 IST Tags: Central Reserve Police Force, Dantewada, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mukrana Email this Save to My Page Ask Users Write a Comment  The CRPF and local police on anti-Naxal operations perform a thankless job but a few basic counter-insurgency measures could have prevented the deadly Dantewada attack, writes B Raman.  6/4 will go down as a black day in the history of India's [ Images ] counter-insurgency just as 26/11 became a black day in the history of Indian counter-terrorism.  In a well-prepared and well-executed attack of unprecedented mobilisation, precision and savagery a large number of Maoists (Naxalites [ Images ] -- estimated by the local police to be about 1,000 strong -- ambushed a combined party of over 80 members of the Central Reserve Police Force and the district police returning from road security duty and managed to kill 75 members of the CRPF and local police force on April 6.  The Maoists had reportedly taken up position on a hill overlooking the route by which the party was returning after performing its task. It is not clear whether the route was a regular road or a motorable jungle track. The ambush took place in the thick Mukrana forests of Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district.  The fact that the Maoists were able to mobilise such a large number of persons for the ambush would indicate that they had advance indication of the return of the CRPF party by that route. They might have had advance intelligence of the plans of the party or they might have assessed that the CRPF might be returning by this road after watching the CRPF men conduct search and destroy operations in the area for three days.  A rule of precaution in counter-insurgency operation is that you don't use the same route for going to an operational area and returning. Often, this precaution is not followed by the security forces either due to carelessness or due to the fact that the security forces do not have much of a choice due to the poor development of roads in the jungle areas in which the Maoists operate.  One may recall an incident a couple of years ago when a large police party had gone by boat from Andhra Pradesh into Orissa. The Maoists had noticed them going and had correctly assessed that the party would be returning by the same route. When they did, a large number of Maoists had taken up position on a raised feature overlooking the river and they literally mowed down over 50 members of the police party.  We have probably not learnt the right lessons from the river ambush and facilitated a deadly road ambush in thick forests by not following basic dos and don'ts of counter-insurgency. The CRPF and the police have to perform a thankless task for want of proper road and telecommunications networks in the Maoist-infected areas. While the Maoists are trained to trek long distances by foot, the security forces tend to be road and vehicles-bound.  They become sitting ducks for the insurgents, who surprise them with explosives and landmines and then mow them down with hand-held weapons. The reflexes of the security forces tend to be weak as could be seen from the fact that there have been very few instances of an ambushed security forces patrol recovering from the ambush and retaliating against the Maoists. Ambushes always tend to be fatal for the security forces with very few instances of successful counter-ambushes by the security forces.  Continuing serious deficiencies in rural policing and in police-rural communities relationships have been coming in the way of village help for the police by way of preventive intelligence. Counter-intelligence in the rural areas to prevent the penetration of the security forces by the Maoists is also weak. The fact that only one member of the police was killed in the ambush makes one suspects possible collusion between the Maoists and some members of the district police.  Since the Maoists and the local police recruits are recruited from the same rural stock, possibilities of penetration of the new police recruits by the Maoists are high.  The time has come to think in terms of using helicopter patrols and spotter drones in our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists in areas covered by thick jungles. An important question to be examined in this connection is how to prevent civilian casualties of villagers and residents of jungles and avoid environmental damage.







Army braces for cyber attacks
Rajat Pandit, TNN, Apr 7, 2010, 03.19am IST NEW DELHI: After the real world, the armed forces are on a red alert in the virtual world as well. Even as they tackle Chinese troop intrusions on the ground, they are grappling with a sharp increase in online espionage attacks from across the Line of Actual Control as well.  Top sources say the Army-CERT (computer emergency response team) recently issued the high alert to all military formations and installations to guard against "focussed large-scale cyber attacks'' that are being planned on "internet facing'' government organisations, prominent brands and corporate groups.  Quoting "reliable'' information, the alert ominously warns the cyber-attacks are likely to be launched from this month onwards. The date mentioned, in fact, is March 31. Effective measures must be taken to protect networks from data-thefts, "distributed denial-of-service attacks'', paralysing computer viruses and the like, it says.  Sources said several military establishments, including the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington, had even refrained from using computers directly connected to internet modems for three-four days over the last week as a precaution. Though the alert holds the cyber-attacks can originate from any country across the world, the suspicion is firmly on Chinese hackers.  This comes even as a group of Canadian and American cyber-security researchers in the new report, `Shadows in the Cloud', held that China-based online espionage gangs have accessed classified documents from several Indian defence and security establishments.  The defence ministry preferred to remain quiet, only saying that it was "studying the report'' which had "lot of grey areas''. Blasting this "clueless state of affairs'', experts said Indian agencies really needed to bolster cyber-security measures as well as sharpen their own cyber-warfare or information warfare skills.  China, in particular, has made cyber-warfare one of its topmost military priorities, with Chinese hackers regularly breaking into sensitive computer networks of countries like US, UK, Germany and India. In December last year, for instance, Chinese online espionage agents had even tried to penetrate computers in the Indian national security adviser's office.  The new report, for instance, says the researchers came across one Indian encrypted diplomatic correspondence, two documents marked `secret', six as `restricted' and five as `confidential' which were accessed by the Chinese hackers.  Moreover, the "affected'' institutions ranged from National Security Council Secretariat and several Indian embassies to the 21 Mountain Brigade in Assam and the Air Force Station at Race Course in New Delhi, which is bang opposite the PM's official residence.  Apart from files related to India's surface-to-air missiles systems and Shakti artillery command and control systems, the people `compromised' included even an officer of the directorate-general of military intelligence.  "Cyber-warfare can be even more destructive than missile strikes, crippling as they can economic, communication and strategic networks and infostructure,'' said a senior officer.






Govt. mulls to retaliate through Army, IAF against Naxalism
New Delhi: The government is now mulling to indulge Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) to tackle the surging Naxal menace. The initiative has to be taken in wake of today’s massacre of 75 CRPF personnel in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh.     The Prime Minister has called National security meet over the attacks to discuss the issue with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Defence chiefs. The sources told that the home ministry is seeking permission to introduce Army and IAF. The meeting is going to attend by P. Chidambaram, A K Antony, RAW chief, and Home Secretary G K Pillai.     As there is already two choppers are engaged in the naxal operations and more have been demanded, but the request is till pending.







Researchers trace Indian Defence Ministry data theft to China
John Markoff and David Barboza, NYT News Service, Tuesday April 6, 2010, Toronto Turning the tables on a China-based computer espionage gang, Canadian and United States computer security researchers have monitored a spying operation for the past eight months, observing while the intruders pilfered classified and restricted documents from the highest levels of the Indian Defence Ministry.  In a report issued Monday night, the researchers, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, provide a detailed account of how a spy operation it called the Shadow Network systematically hacked into personal computers in government offices on several continents.  The Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the actual documents, including classified assessments about security in several Indian states, and confidential embassy documents about India's relationships in West Africa, Russia and the Middle East. The intruders breached the systems of independent analysts, taking reports on several Indian missile systems. They also obtained a year's worth of the Dalai Lama's personal e-mail messages.  The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that even though the Indian government was the primary target of the attacks, one chink in computer security can leave many nations exposed.  "It's not only that you're only secure as the weakest link in your network," said Rafal Rohozinski, a member of the Toronto team. "But in an interconnected world, you're only as secure as the weakest link in the global chain of information."  As recently as early March, the Indian communications minister, Sachin Pilot, told reporters that government networks had been attacked by China, but that "not one attempt has been successful." But on March 24, the Toronto researchers said, they contacted intelligence officials in India and told them of the spy ring they had been tracking. They requested and were given instructions on how to dispose of the classified and restricted documents.  On Monday, Sitanshu Kar, a spokesman for the Indian Defence Ministry, said officials were "looking into" the report but had no official statement.  The attacks look like the work of a criminal gang based in Sichuan province, but like all cyberattacks, it is easy to mask the true origin, the researchers said. Given the sophistication of the intruders and the targets of the operation, the researchers said, it is reasonable to suspect that the Chinese government approved of the spying.  When asked about the new report on Monday, a propaganda official in Sichuan's capital, Chengdu, said "it's ridiculous" to suggest the Chinese government might have played a role. "The Chinese government considers hacking a cancer to the whole society," said the official, Ye Lao. Tensions have risen between China and the United States this year after a statement by Google in January that the company and dozens of other businesses had been the victims of computer intrusions coming from China.  The spy operation appears to be different both from the Internet intruders identified by Google and from a surveillance ring known as Ghostnet, also believed to be operating from China, which the Canadian researchers identified in March of last year. Ghostnet used computer servers largely based on the island of Hainan to steal documents from the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet, and government and corporations in more than 103 countries.  The Ghostnet investigation led the investigators to this second Internet spy operation, which is the subject of their new report, titled "Shadows in the Cloud: An investigation into cyber-espionage 2.0." The new report shows the India-focused spy ring made extensive use of social networks like Twitter, Google Groups, Blogspot, blog.com, Baidu Blogs and Yahoo Mail, to automate the control of computers once they had been infected.  The Canadian researchers cooperated in their investigation  with a volunteer U.S. group of security experts at the Shadowserver Foundation, which focuses on Internet criminal activity.  "This would definitely rank in the sophisticated range," said Steven Adair, a security research with the group. "While we don't know exactly who's behind it, we know they selected their targets with great care."  By gaining access to the control servers used by the second cybergang, the researchers observed the theft of a wide range of material, including classified documents from the Indian government and sensitive reports taken from Indian military analysts and corporations, as well as documents from agencies of the United Nations and other governments.  The researchers said the second spy ring was more sophisticated and difficult to detect than the Ghostnet operation.  By examining a series of e-mail addresses, the investigators traced the attacks to hackers who appeared to be based in Chengdu, which is home to a large population from neighboring Tibet. Researchers believe one hacker used the code name "lost33" and that he may have been affiliated with the city's prestigious University of Electronic Science and Technology. The university publishes books on computer hacking and offers courses in "network attack and defence technology" and "information conflict technology,'' according to its Web site.  The People's Liberation Army also operates a technical reconnaissance bureau in the city and helps fund the university's research on computer network defence. A spokesman for the university could not be reached Monday because of a national holiday.The investigators linked the account of another hacker to a Chengdu resident whose name appeared to be Mr. Li. Reached by telephone on Monday, Li denied taking part in computer hacking. Li, who declined to give his full name, said he must be confused with someone else. He said he knew little about computer hacking. "That is not me," he said. "I'm a wine seller."  The Canadian researchers stressed that while the new spy ring focused primarily on India there were clear international ramifications.  Rohozinski noted that civilian personnel working for NATO and the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan usually travel through India and that Indian government visa issuing computers were compromised in both Kandahar and Kabul in Afghanistan.  "That is an operations security issue for both NATO and the International Security Assistance Force," said Rohozinski, who is also chief executive of the SecDev group, a Canadian computer security consulting and research firm.  The report notes that documents the researchers recovered were found with "Secret," "Restricted," and "Confidential" notices. "These documents," the report says, "contain sensitive information taken from a member of the (Indian) National Security Council Secretariat concerning secret assessments of India's security situation in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as concerning the Naxalites and Maoists," two opposition groups.  Other documents contained personal information about a member of the Indian Directorate General of Military Information.  The researchers also found evidence that Indian Embassy computers in Kabul, Moscow, Dubai and the High Commission of India in Abuja, Nigeria, were compromised.  Also compromised were computers used by the Indian Military Engineer Services in Bengdubi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Jalandhar; the 21st Mountain Artillery Brigade in the state of Assam; and three air force bases. Computers at two Indian military colleges were also taken over by the spy ring.  Even after eight months of watching the spy ring, the Toronto researchers said they could not determine exactly who was using the Chengdu computers to infiltrate the Indian government.  "But an important question to be entertained is whether the PRC will take action to shut the Shadow network down," the report says. "Doing so will help to address long-standing concerns that malware ecosystems are actively cultivated, or at the very least tolerated, by governments like the PRC who stand to benefit from their exploits though the black and gray markets for information and data."



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