India and Pakistan have long been known to be at war with each other. Either at the borders, or a game of cricket. And today, the war has gone digital.
How did the cyber-war begin?
Late Saturday night, the official website of the Kerala Government: kerala.gov.in, was hacked by a person identifying himself as Faisal Afzal aka 'Faisal 1337' for reasons unknown.
The text on the homepage at that moment was reportedly, "Official website of the RC Office,Govt of Kerala- New Delhi Hacked! Pakistan Zindabad." Also mentioned below was, "We Are Team Pak Cyber Attacker. Security is just an illusion." In an attempt to spread the word faster about his 'so-called achievements', the hacker also mentioned about his attack on his Facebook page.
Without a doubt, the news spread like wild fire all over social media. It was no longer about a government website or an Indian website being hacked. It had now blown into being an attack on India – by a Pakistani hacker!
How did India react
Within a few hours of the attack, an Indian hacking group returned the favour. Going by the name, "The Mallu Cyber Soldiers" the group claimed responsibility of the retaliation. It announced that over 100 Pakistani websites were hacked, as payback to the Pakistani hack of the Kerala Government's website.
They also posted a message on their Facebook page, "!!Message to Script Kiddies of Pakistan ….Do not touch Indian Websites !!! Now your 46 Pakistan government websites got crashed and 4 educational websites got defaced. This is a small payback for hacking kerala.gov.in. Faisal 1337 go home kiddo, you are F*ucked."
The group went on to share the list of the websites hacked, at that time as well. Few included Pakistan’s government website Pakistan.gov.pk, president.gov.pk and cabinet.gov.pk. But the 'cyber-war' did not stop there. In the same Pastebin message, the group ‘Hell Shield Hackers’ stated that the motive behind this attack was to retaliate against the attack on the Kerala government website.
"Indian Hackers haven’t hacked a single Pakistani site after 15th August 2015. But Faisal Afzal hacked kerala.gov.in .. Dude? We are not sleeping. If you even touch a Indian site, we will crush you up.. :3. Now feel the heat pakistan.gov.pk hacked," the group said.
Reaction by the others
The Government from both nations have nothing to do with it. According to reports, the unofficial 'cyber war' between the two countries had actually began in 2010, and is waged by patriotic hackers on both sides, every day.
According to a report by The Times of India, State IT mission director K Mohammed Y Safirulla said the government was worried over a possible backlash following the afternoon's developments. "I met the principal secretary and discussed the issue. Officials concerned have been asked to stay vigilant," he said. The framework of many government websites were not updated for the past five years. "Hence, an immediate overall upgradation is not possible," he said.
Cyber security expert Benild Joseph said, “Cracking of the Kerala Government website exposes the vulnerability of our official websites. It was just defacement and the officials concerned claim that the server is safe. Yet, the incident calls for a better cyber security mechanism. Since no expert can ensure full security, constant vigil and awareness about the latest vulnerabilities are the key to ensuring security.”
But how do you see this war as?
Indian hackers see this retaliation as a sign of 'winning' or 'sweet revenge'. However, we wonder when this digital war would come to an end.
Hackers don't target individuals or small groups of users, but rather prefer large organisations, governments or communities that store personal information of thousands or millions of users. On the one side, while the Modi government talks about digitising India, incidents such as these highlight the importance for improved cyber security.