Email IDs hacked: babus’ apathy partly to blame?

Official says awareness about safe online behaviour quite low in bureaucracy

GN Bureau | December 18, 2012



In what would be an embarrassment for the country’s cyber warriors, nearly 10,000 email IDs of senior government functionaries were compromised— that, too, on a single day — earlier this year.

A report in today's Indian Express stands corroborated (save numbers) in another report published in bimonthly bulletin of the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC), which is under the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) — the technical intelligence arm of the government.

Officials whose email accounts were compromised include secretaries of home affairs, tourism and culture, earth sciences, naval attaché to Tehran, top investigators from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and armed forces.

The bimonthly also reported about a stand-off between NTRO and National Informatics Centre (NIC) —the agency that hosts and manages all email accounts in the government — over sharing information on the accounts hacked. A meeting of joint intelligence committee was called to resolve it, the report said.

When contacted, the NIC denied having any information about emails being compromised on a large-scale. Speaking on conditions of anonymity, an official said most officials do not change their default passwords, which is always risky.

Awareness about safe online behavior is quite low in the bureaucracy, the official said, adding that sometimes bureaucrats don't even avoid sharing their passwords.

Incidents of cyber attack has steadily increased of late — be it instances of compromise of email  accounts, hacking of websites, or phishing attacks, among others (read on India’s attempt to raise guard against cyber attack: http://governancenow.com/news/regular-story/govt-recruit-battalion-cyber-warriors). According to the communications and information technology ministry, more than 14,000 websites have been hacked till October this year. While 16,126 websites were hacked in 2010, 9,180 were hacked in 2009. 

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