Nearly 90 Indian government websites and critical systems were targeted by alleged Pakistani hackers within hours of the Pulwama suicide strike on February 14.
More recently, The ‘website’ of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (http://www.bjp.org/) went into maintenance mode after an alleged hacking attempt. The Web, at the moment, remains down but the “error 522” message has been recently replaced with the following sentence, “We’ll be back soon! Sorry for the inconvenience but we’re performing some maintenance at the moment. We’ll be back online shortly! Also, A Pakistan-based cyber hacker group allegedly hacked the official website of BJP Chhattisgarh — cgstate.bjp.org on February 21, reported at ANI.
Following the IANS interview, Imagine the website of United State president Donald Trump’s Republican Party in the “maintenance mode” for over four days after some sort of “transgression” or a full-fledged hacking. If that appears impossible, imagine this: The portal of India’s ruling BJP that was allegedly hacked on Tuesday morning was still down on Saturday after going into the “maintenance mode”. The fact is that you can’t remain in the “maintenance mode” for so long, unless you are redesigning the whole portal from scratch after the data bases have been compromised, say many cyber experts.
According to ethical cyber hackers, a portal that is “down” for four-five days can only be in that mode if the entire coding is being done and content being generated. Meanwhile, Manan Shah, Founder and CEO, Avalance Global Solutions. “Looks like BJP is redesigning the whole website as not only the data base but the entire backup is also gon – only if the daily backups were being done in the first place – hence it is taking so long for them to up the website again”.
“Normally, the security audit in case of hacking or some sort of transgression takes two-three hours and portal is normally up within a day. This looks like serious hacking as it has wiped out everything from static and dynamic content,” he mentioned. The Congress Gujarat website was also hacked on march 06 but it was up soon.
“Some Indian hacker or group may also be behind the hacking. It appears hackers are getting active as elections are near and cyber warfare will only get intense,” argued Manan, who is an ethical hacker. Manan and his expertise in cyber forensics has helped Gujarat and Rajasthan police, Ministry of Defence and CBI Gandhinagar in safeguarding their platform against cyber attacks.
On March 06, Gujarat Congress website was hacked with an inappropriate content posted on it. The Chhattisgarh BJP website was also hacked on February 21 which is also “under maintenance”. On March 06, BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya has mentioned that the portal was likely to be up “by tonight or tomorrow”. While admitting that the site had experienced some sort of “transgression”, he argued that the site was down due to a “technical glitch”, not hacking.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties trolled the BJP on social media . “The IT experts who claim EVMs can’t be hacked saw their party’s website hacked. But don’t ask for proof,” Aam Admi Party (AAP) spokesperson, Saurabh Bhardwaj. Congress’ Twitter manager, Divya Spandana, was among the first to tweet about the malfunction of the BJP website. She shared a screenshot of a meme featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On March 7, Pratik Sinha who is co-founder of AltNews, tweeted: “BJP website has been down for THREE days after being hacked. Were they not doing daily back-ups of their website/database? It would have taken only hours to come back online, if they had a recent back-up. Did BJP fail to follow the standard practices followed by most websites?” French security researcher who goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and who published Aadhaar data leaks in the past, also tweeted: “The official website of @BJP4India has been hacked. I guess they stole the database too”.
The BJP was yet to comment on whether it was a hacking attempt or the site was undergoing maintenance.
In India, Over 100 government websites, including some managed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), were hacked in 2018, Parliament was informed in December. The websites of at least 10 ministries including those of defence, home affairs, labour and law went down for around six hours in April 2018. Also, Union Home Ministry informed Parliament last year that at least one website run by the Indian government was hacked every alternate day in 2016, Recent IANS Interview asserted.