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Business News/ News / India/  Data breaches at PMO and EPFO, In-Cert officials brought in to probe allegations
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Data breaches at PMO and EPFO, In-Cert officials brought in to probe allegations

On Tuesday, a social media user on platform X alleged the leakage of documents from Chinese cyber agencies on GitHub. The user claimed that these documents contained data from the EPFO, the Indian PMO, and various public and private organisations.

State-sponsored cyberattacks against India witnessed a 278 percent increase between 2021 and September 2023Premium
State-sponsored cyberattacks against India witnessed a 278 percent increase between 2021 and September 2023

The government is investigating reports of a data breach involving datasets from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), sources told The Economic Times. They added that officials from the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) are tasked with examining the situation.

“We are aware of it but need to verify if the claims being made are correct. They (Cert-In) will look into it and submit a detailed report, including on whether the data set is new," an official told the paper.

“We are aware of some of the information that is being claimed to have been compromised. The CERT-In is currently investigating the claims," said a senior IT Ministry official told the Indian Express.

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However, as of now, there has been no significant progress in the data breach investigation. The IT Ministry did not respond to requests for comments.

Leaked Documents on GitHub Raise Concerns

On Tuesday, a social media user on platform X alleged the leakage of documents from Chinese cyber agencies on GitHub. The user claimed that these documents contained data from the EPFO, the Indian PMO, and various public and private organisations.

As per the report on Github, The leaked documents circulating on GitHub reportedly unveil a spyware initiative by Chinese infosec company I-Soon. The targets of this cyber operation span social media platforms, telecommunications companies, and various global organisations. Suspicions are rife about the involvement of the Chinese government in orchestrating these activities.

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Cybersecurity experts are currently investigating the matter to validate the authenticity of the claims. "The tracker maintained by the attackers claimed to have access to one of the servers. Except for the claims, there is no proof," one expert told ET.

China Involvement Speculated

According to Taiwanese threat intelligence researcher Azaka Sekai, the leaked documents shed light on China's offensive cyber operations, revealing the utilisation of I-Soon's spyware.

The alleged documentation outlines the ability of attackers to target both Android and iOS devices, extracting a range of sensitive information, including hardware details, GPS data, contacts, media files, and live audio recordings. Specific gadgets, resembling well-known Chinese manufacturer portable batteries, are said to be used to inject targeted Android phones through WiFi signals.

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Notably, the leaked information identifies victims ranging from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) to Apollo Hospitals in India, along with various government entities from China's neighbouring countries.

Rising Cyberattacks in India

Recent times have seen a significant surge in cyberattacks on organizations such as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Taj Hotels, and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL).

Further, state-sponsored cyberattacks against India witnessed a 278 percent increase between 2021 and September 2023. A report from November 2023 revealed that service companies, including IT and business process outsourcing firms, faced the highest share of attacks.

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According to the 2023 India Threat Landscape Report by Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Cyfirma, India is the most targeted country globally, accounting for 13.7 percent of all cyberattacks. The United States follows as the second most targeted country, with 9.6 percent of all attacks. Indonesia and China come next, facing 9.3 percent and 4.5 percent of all attacks, respectively.

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Published: 21 Feb 2024, 01:11 PM IST
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