There has been a swarm of hacking attacks by entities allegedly operating from China, aiming to disrupt public –private service providers involved in sectors like banking, infrastructure and information since Tuesday.
Between Tuesday to Friday, there were up to 40,300 hacking attempts, also referred to as ‘probes’, seeking to cripple the working of public-private service providers located in New Delhi and Mumbai, cyber police sources said.
Though the hacking attempts have been unsuccessful so far in doing any concrete damage, their activities are unprecedented, the sources said.
"The number of the hacking probes, 40, 300, is unprecedented as for instance, there were zero such attempts from entities /individuals based in China last week," a source said.
"There has been a huge spike in hacking activities by entities that are suspected to be operating from China and they are focussed in that country’s Sichuan province. The hacking attacks, or probes, were around 40, 300 since Tuesday,” said Maharashtra police’s (cyber) Special Inspector General of police, Yashasvi Yadav.
“Sichuan, incidentally, is the headquarters of the cyber warfare wing of the People’s Liberation Army of China," Yadav said.
"But we do not know yet whether the hacking probes are being done by individuals or entities that are non-state or state actors,” Yadav said.
According to another officer, necessary alerts have been issued and precautions, including via robust firewalls, are being taken by the stake-holders to thwart the attacks. "The hacking attempts have so not been able to do any concrete damage but they are constantly trying to bring to a standstill the working of a group of organisations involved in banking, information and infrastructure sectors, to spread panic," Yadav said.
According to Yadav, the hacking attacks are of two types. As part of what is called the Distributed Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, the hacker seeks to cripple cyber-based systems, like a website, for their intended users. For instance, if a website of a utility provider can handle 1,000 requests per second, the hacker will bombard it with 10 lakh requests so that the system breaks down.
The hacking attacks are also employing a technique, 'Internet Protocol hijack', wherein they try to divert internet traffic of a target, by routing it via China, for surveillance purposes, the sources said.
Sources added that it is being ascertained if there is any link in the surge in the hacking attempts with the Monday's faceoff between Indian army and Chinese army soldiers along the Line Of Actual Control.