India is the world's second most populous nation and one of the most tech-savvy developing nations. Many companies are relocating their data centers, research centers, and information technology business to the nation, hoping to take advantage of this expertise and the low costs of land and labor. However, Indian officials report that all is not well in the Indian tech community, as they state that their nation has been under constant attack for the last year and a half by the world's most populous nation, China.
According to Indian officials, China's army launched almost daily strikes and intrusions into government and private networks in India. These new accusations mark a new high-tech chapter in the uneasy relations between the two countries. The countries have economically duked it out over the last couple decades to win foreign business. Also they have clashed over social issues, such as the freedom of Tibet, which India supports, but China ardently opposes.
Indian officials describe the attacks to be sophisticated and complete -- far from an amateurish independent effort. They say the online assaults are not merely "hacking", but are clear attacks by a digital superpower. While publicly these officials say that the country is in danger from hackers from many different regions, private conversations have recently emerged indicating that Indian officials are grappling with a clear and ongoing threat from its neighbor.
The main focus of the Chinese efforts is to scan and map India's digital networks, public and private. The government of India fears this knowledge could be used to cripple or damage India's electronic base in the case of a conflict. They accuse China of trying to gain "an asymmetrical advantage" over its possible adversary.
Among the biggest attacks sourced to China of late include an attack on the NIC (National Infomatics Centre), which was aimed at the National Security Council, and on the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Both of these targets were important Indian government functions, which dealt with national security. Numerous other networks were targeted and probed, but weren't disabled, according to officials.
Among the tools China has used to attack India, allegedly are BOTS, key loggers and mapping of networks. According to officials, China's forces are particularly fond of BOT attacks, which allow them to take over and command the infiltrated networks. Indian security officials say that there are as many as 50,000 active BOT controlled computers, mostly from Chinese attacks. Some of these BOT computers controlled, allegedly by another online adversary, Russian cyber terrorists, were used to help cripple Estonia's government computers in a major attack last year.
While India has begun to try to set up cyber defenses, it has yet to focus greatly on cyber warfare as part of its state security doctrine. India has to rely on small teams of underpaid government officials to try to block attackers and otherwise deflect the attacks. Some believe that India's real need is to develop a retaliatory online force. National security adviser M K Narayanan has launched the National Technology Research Organization to investigate such policies, but has been limited by indecision in the government. The Indian press has characterized China's defenses as "porous" and an easy target for counter attacks.
As a growing superpower and soon to be the world's largest economy, China is eager to flex its military and technological muscle in a variety of ways. From using its anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to try to control weather at the Olympics to online assaults, China has been showcasing its military presence before the world. Both British and U.S. officials claimed that last year that their government networks, including military/security networks, had been infiltrated and attacked by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). Private entities inside the U.S. such as CNN.com also found themselves under attack after voicing pro-Tibetan opinions.
The challenge of dealing with China's alleged online aggression remains a hot topic the top security minds in the U.S. With more online users than any other nation, and with that number only growing, China has become a digital juggernaut. Now India is struggling with the challenge of defending itself in the digital world against its powerful neighbor.