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Is online the new frontier in India-China skirmish?

(Image credit: Cyberattack)

The India-China jousting, it seems, is shifting to the cyber frontier. Close on the heels of banning 59 Chinese apps, the Indian government has issued an informal warning to companies and its own systems to be on the vigil as it fears "intensified cybersecurity attacks from China."

According to a news report in Economic Times that quotes an unnamed senior government official saying, "among all the sectors, power, telecom and financial services are being monitored even more closely, given their exposure to Chinese infrastructure."

The report further sounded a warning bell that since India had so far permitted the Chinese to invest in critical infrastructure, especially in communications and power, those can get vulnerable as "the Chinese have keys to those networks in the country".

And even more direly, the report noted that the Chinese using that access may also try to weed into the financial sector.

Quite frankly, New Delhi expects China to foment problem from remote locations. It foresees retaliatory attacks for the bans slapped on the apps.

In the event, the government is beefing up its monitoring systems. And quite pointedly, the official also said the government would "focus on companies that are funded by Chinese investors, although the degree of surveillance may vary."

China, a known offender

But allegations of Chinese State or non-State actors trying to attack cyber systems is not exactly new.

Just last week, the officials in the Indian State of Maharashtra claimed that hackers based in China attempted over 40,000 cyber attacks on India's information technology infrastructure and banking sector over just five days. 

The spurt in online attacks from across the border was noticed after tensions rose between the two countries in eastern Ladakh.

India also warned its citizens of possible phishing attacks and issued an advisory on it.

There could be phishing attempts by impersonating, online, government agencies, departments and trade associations overseeing the disbursement of government fiscal aid, officials had said.

One such fraudulent email ID was found to be "ncov2019@gov.in'' which sent bogus information about free Covid-19 testing for residents of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

The officials also cited complaints about data on Indian users being transferred abroad without authorisation.

According to one statistics, cyber threats in India had increased six-fold since the lockdown began on March 25.

Chinese surveillance equipment under surveillance

Meanwhile, in an ironical twist, questions are also being asked about some surveillance equipment of Chinese-make being used by the Indian State to keep tabs on people for purported security purposes.  

Experts believe that surveillance devices made in China and are used in government and private offices will be next on the radar.

Cybersecurity experts also warned people to be careful against downloading spurious apps in their eagerness to replace banned Chinese apps. They fear people might end up having even more harmful clones on their phones and other digital systems.

Source: Economic Times

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