India may see a 10% rise in cyberattacks in 2018 as compared to approximately 53,000 such cases reported last year, according to two officials in the security establishment.
There were about 50,000 attacks in 2016 and 49,000 in 2015, according to the country’s Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT, considered the last line of defence for India’s IT networks and infrastructure.
Almost 40% of the attacks from January-May 2018 originated from China, and 25% from the US, according to CERT; 13% came from Pakistan and 9% from Russia. “Compared to last year, attacks from Pakistan and North Korea have increased this year,” a senior official at CERT said on condition of anonymity.
With critical infrastructure, including the country’s financial markets and transport networks almost entirely dependent on IT networks, cyberattacks can result in massive and widespread disruption.
“Cyberattacks will increase as the use of internet increases. But, reporting of cyberattack is still very low in India. Broadly, only 5% of cyberattacks are reported to the authorities,” said Jiten Jain, who collaborates with the government on cyber security and is also the CEO of Indian Infosec Consortium.
According to data shared by Cyber Security Establishment with the Prime Minister’s Office, and which has been viewed by HT, most attacks were aimed at the country’s financial networks and government arms, followed by power plants and power grids.
The disturbing trend, according to CERT, is that the proportion of attacks aimed at financial networks has seen an increase, perhaps an indication that most attackers now realise that any disruption in financial markets and networks for a substantial period of time could cripple a country’s economy.
This year, one in every five attacks targeted financial networks; and almost the same proportion was aimed at a government department or unit; around 15% of the attacks targeted power plants, oil refineries, and oil and gas pipelines. Telecom and defence communication networks were next in line.
Hackers siphoned off about Rs 89 crore from Cosmos Cooperative Bank Ltd — one of the oldest cooperative banks in India — and transferred the money into various foreign and domestic bank accounts this August. Subsequent investigations revealed the bank’s systems were hacked into twice before the breach was detected.
The first attack took place on August 11 between 3pm and 10pm and on August 13 at 11.30am. Investigations revealed about 14,800 fraudulent transactions to withdraw Rs 80.5 crore — Rs 78 crore through 12,000 transactions in 28 countries, the rest in India.
India’s top IT security official said that the cyber threats faced by India are no different than those faced by other countries. “The attacks, penetration on the ICT infrastructure are increasing across the country in line with the trend across the world. The Indian situation in line with the world,” National Cyber Security Coordinator Gulshan Rai said.
According to Rai, who used to be the chief of CERT, it isn’t surprising that there has been an increase in the number of cyberattacks because of “the very nature of technology where no product comes with a secure hard/software”.
Increasing consumer usage of IT is one reason, he added, because “the home sector does not follow safe practices”. Still, says Rai, India is better off than “many advanced countries” and several attacks have been prevented.