The websites of India’s top governmental institutions are currently under attack.
The websites of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and the Ministry of Home Affairs appear to have been taken down by unknown hackers. The Ministry of Defence website earlier sported two Chinese characters, and a message saying “Error: The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.” As of writing at 6:55 pm, the website is inaccessible.
Now that's pretty scary… pic.twitter.com/4F505JAYeV
— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) April 6, 2018
Soon after the Ministry of Defence website was taken down, the Ministry of Home Affairs website also appears to have been attacked. The Ministry of Home Affairs website had a simple message which said that the site was off-line, and was currently not available due to technical problems.
Website of Ministry of Home Affairs down. Earlier, Ministry of Defence website was hacked and Chinese characters appeared on the website home page. pic.twitter.com/ZWKZLaKLb2
— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2018
The website of the department of labour and employment is also currently inaccessible.
It would be hard to imagine that the near-simultaneous attacks on three top government websites could be a coincidence — it’s most likely that the attacks are related, and a part of a concerted attempt to embarrass India by knocking out two important websites with .gov domains. Interestingly, the hackers were either unable to deface the sites or didn’t want to — apart from the two Chinese characters, there is no visible message from the hackers.
It’s not unusual for Indian sites to be hacked — hackers, often from Pakistan, often take over Indian sites, and leave pro-Pakistani slogans and graffiti. But these sites usually belong to government universities, or low-level regional government offices. To take down two Indian sites belonging to crucial government ministries is perhaps an indication of the technical sophistication of the hackers — and a sign that in the 21st century, cross-country skirmishes don’t happen only on borders, but also over the internet.
Update: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said her department’s site had indeed been hacked. “Action is initiated after the hacking of MoD website. The website shall be restored shortly. Needless to say, every possible step required to prevent any such eventuality in the future will be taken,” she tweeted.