New Delhi: On 12 February, the home ministry website was reportedly hacked, prompting authorities to temporarily take it down. While officials denied claims of hacking, ministry data shows that in January and February 2017 alone, 39 government websites were hacked, which led the government to set up an expert group to combat cyber crime.
These weren’t the first instance of government websites being hit by cyber criminals.
According to the ministry of electronics and information technology, the number of central and state government websites that were hacked has been steadily rising—from 155 in 2014 to 164 in 2015 and 199 last year.
In all, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said in its 2016 report (for 2015), 11,592 cases of cyber crime were registered in India, leading to 8,121 arrests. While Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of cyber crimes at 2,208, Maharashtra followed closely with 2,195.
Experts say there’s been a spike in attacks after demonetisation.
The 18 weeks following demonetisation had not just led to an upward spiral in cyber crime, but also rendered ineffective India’s cyber defences, with mobile and digital wallets becoming susceptible to hacking. The reason, they said, was the absence of legal deterrence.
“The post-demonetisation era saw the absence of any deterrent by way of legal provision. We must think of how to come up with an appropriate cyber resilience policy. Today, the Indian information technology law goes soft on cyber crime especially after the 2008 amendment because except cyber terrorism and child pornography, all other cyber crimes offences are bailable. This means that a person is free to come out and delete evidence,” said Pavan Duggal, cyber law expert at the Supreme Court.
The home ministry has proposed the setting up of the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C).
It says the government also aims to set up an online platform to report cyber crime and cyber forensic training-cum-laboratories in order to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with cyber crime.
“The government constituted an expert group to study the gaps and challenges in handling cyber crimes and prepare a road map for effectively tackling cyber crimes. Based on the group’s recommendations, the Cyber Crime against Women and Children (CCPWC) scheme has been approved by the government,” said a senior home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
The home ministry also clarified that the government had taken several legal, policy and institutional measures to check cyber crime.
“India is working for bilateral cooperation with around 15 countries for exchange of information on cyber crime. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) also issues alerts against the latest cyber threats and countermeasures on a regular basis,” the official added.
Duggal said that hacking of government websites was indicative of larger troubles facing digital India.
“It is indicative of two things—cracks in India’s cyber security armour and the subtle warning by cyber criminals that if government websites are not safe, then nothing is,” said Duggal.