Amid cyberattacks in China, government issues SOPs for staff | News from India

NEW DELHI: Facing repeated cyberattack attempts from China, the government has decided to step up vigilance by asking employees of ministries and public sector units (PSU) to follow standard operating protocol, including basic hygiene such as shutting down computers, logging out of email and updating passwords, or face disciplinary action.
Official sources state that the TARGETS the cyber attack is suspected to be the result of an employee failing to follow these steps. “Often, employees do not log out of their emails or turn off their machines and we believe something similar may have happened at AIIMS as well. But we were able to get the system back up and running,” a source told TOI, adding that other systems were not compromised.


There have been multiple cyber attacks from the electricity grid to the banking system in recent months, which have been thwarted by the Indian authorities, with AIIMS being one of the breaches. Sources say most of the attacks are believed to be the work of Chinese hackers, who often operate as “sleeper cells” using Indian users’ computers.
While the government has a standard operating procedure, which lists nearly two dozen steps, it has now decided to enforce it more strictly and is even contemplating action against abnormal employees. Typically, in government, breach of protocol results in disciplinary action, which could be related to dereliction of duty. In addition, certain other provisions could also be invoked in the event of serious default by employees, the sources indicated.
Sources said the Minister of Internal Affairs together with the ministries of communications and information technology and the secretariat of the National Security Council they were closely monitoring the emerging situation and trying to ensure that vulnerabilities were verified.
The frequency of such attacks has increased in recent months with the Central Storage Services Ltd (CDSL) being among the agencies where some of the computers are suspected to have detected malware, although the depository claims the data has not been compromised.
A report from CERT-IN estimated a 51% increase in reported ransomware incidents during the first half of 2022. While the majority of attacks targeted data centers, IT, and manufacturing and finance, critical infrastructure including oil and gas, transport and energy were also affected.
Separately, cyber security companies Norton said in a report that India faced over 18 million cyber threats during the first quarter of 2022. Several Indian agencies have built multiple firewalls to protect against cyber attacks, but the irresponsible behavior of stakeholders and employees often exposes them at risk.


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