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[] Indisch-Pakistanische Hacker-Kaempfe -

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Dass das gleich wieder als Krieg bezeichnet werden muss...

Für Indien-Interesierte: Der genannte "Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad, an IT
consultant who has been actively studying information warfare and its
consequences on India" betreibt aktive Öffentlichkeitsarbeit in Indien
(Op-Eds in Hindustan Times u.a.) mit dem Ziel, staatliche
Cyberwar-Fähigkeiten aufzubauen. Er betreibt - natürlich - eine
IT-Beratungsfirma. Mehr dazu: Ein paar Artikel
von ihm gingen schon über diese Liste.

Grüsse, Ralf

War in Cyberspace

Priya Ganapati

The Rediff Special, 10.7.2001

It is quiet in cyberspace.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's visit to India this week for talks
with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has not yet sparked off

Every event in India-Pakistan relations, after all, finds an echo in
cyberspace these days.

Is the Indian government so desperately in need of fresh ideas that they
to resort to hijacking their own plane in order to find something to pin

Are the Indian people so disillusioned that they think Kargil was a

Does India really believe it can silence thousands of Kashmiris by
defenseless children and raping virtuous women?

These are lines posted on the defaced web site of the Indian Science
Congress Association, one of the country's premier scientific
The ISC web site was hacked in December 1999 by a hacker group called
The group left a message on the front door of the site: "Happy 2000, you
pathetic fools!!! Pakistan OWNS!! [This defacement dedicated to all the
Kashmiris senselessly MURDERED by the Indian Govt over 50 years!]"

Indo-Pak animosity is entrenched deeply in virtual space. As in the real
world, Kashmir is the bone of contention online too. The tussle for
Kashmir has found a new outlet, cyberspace. And it has a new name,

Hacktivism bridges the realm between hacking and activism. Its champions
are not motivated by the thrill or challenge of exploiting/attacking
computers or their networks. Nor are they interested in making money.
They believe they are activists and use their skills to make political
statements and launch protests against the 'enemy' government and

Hacking for the thrill of it has become passé. Activists on both sides
of the border have a mission now: to be one up on each other in

Clubs of hackers owing allegiance to either India or Pakistan repeatedly
break into web sites to prove their point. There are chat rooms where
the next hack is plotted and anti-India/anti-Pakistan venom is spewed.
There are mailing lists where software professionals pontificate on the
threats to India's computer and telecom networks. 

For the fanatics on either side, this is a whole new world. 

The most popular form of hacktivism is defacing Web pages. And here
groups owing allegiance to Pakistan have an upper hand. 

Statistics from, a web site that tracks computer security
related developments on the Internet, show that attacks on Indian
cyberspace increased from 4 in 1999 to 72 in 2000. These numbers cover
only the attacks carried out on domains ending with '.in'. In contrast,
the Pakistani cyber space was infiltrated 7 times in 1999 and 18 times
in 2000. 

This year has been worse. According to India Cracked, a site that tracks
defacements of Indian web sites, over 150 Indian sites have already been
hacked into in the first six months. Most of these break ins had a
strong pro-Pakistan flavour to them. The hacked Web sites sported
anti-India messages. Experts believe they are the handiwork of Pakistani
hacker groups. 

The genesis of the Indo-Pak cyberwar can be traced to the Pokhran II
tests in May 1998. Soon after the tests were announced, a group of
hackers called milw0rm broke into the Bhabha Atomic Research Center web
site and posted anti-India and anti-nuclear messages. While milw0rm is
not believed to be a Pakistani group, their action led to the birth of
hacktivism. The BARC is the Indian atomic energy programme's top
research organisation. 

During the 1999 Kargil skirmish, Indo-Pak relations online hit a new
low. Hackers from both sides resorted to defacing web sites of key
institutions in each country and used the space to present their points
of view. 

One of the earliest Indian sites to be hacked was, established by the Indian government to
provide factual information about daily events in the Kashmir Valley.
The hackers posted photographs showing Indian military forces allegedly
killing Kashmiri militants. The pictures sported captions like
'Massacre,' Torture,' 'Extrajudicial execution' and 'The agony of
crackdown' and blamed the Indian government for its alleged atrocities
in Kashmir. 

Their Indian cyberspace counterparts maintained a stoic silence. The
site resumed its updates within a few days. A few months later, though,
it slipped into oblivion. 

Though a cease-fire was declared in Kargil, the war online did not die

Last year, pro-Pakistan cyber warriors attacked Indian Science Congress
2000 and the National Informatics Centre. They also invaded the web site
of the State-run international voice carrier Videsh Sanchar Nigam
Limited and posted anti-India messages. While ISC changed the URL of its
site and erased all traces of the hack, NIC and VSNL cleansed their
sites and continued on. 

In December, a pro-Indian hacker broke into a Pakistani web site The site was not the official web site of the Pakistan
government and the hack earned more ridicule than respect. 

"Anti-Indian hackers have been very active for a while now. There are
lots of groups -- like GForce Pakistan, mOs, WFD, PHC and Silver Lords
-- that have tried to deface Indian sites regularly," says Srijith K,
who runs India Cracked. 

While the Pakistani presence on the Web is rather insignificant, there
is no denying that Pakistani hackers have inflicted more damage on
Indian sites than vice-versa. 

As the numbers from Attrition and IndiaCracked show, Indian sites are
more often at the receiving end. Two months ago, the external affairs
ministry web site was hacked into by G Force, a Pakistani hacker club. 

Enoguh jokes, you pathetic Indian geeks @ gov have again owned once
again by a group of cyber crusuders known as GFORCE was the message left
behind on the MEA site. 

Some prominent web sites that have fallen victims to the Pakistanis
include government sites like the UP government site on NICNET, the
ministry of information technology web site, company sites like Mahindra
& Mahindra and chat rooms like the rediff chat. A complete list of the
defaced web sites and their mirror, which is a screen capture of the
hacked web site, can be found at 

Most of the pro-Pakistan hacker groups do not consist solely of
Pakistani citizens. The group is more likely to have members who are of
Pakistani origin, now based in countries like US and England. 

Two of the most active pro-Pakistan hacker groups are G-Force and the
Pakistan Hackers Club. 

G Force holds the dubious distinction of wreaking the maximum havoc on
Indian web sites. The trophy list for this band of 'jehadis' boasts of
names like the Asian Age newspaper, Aptech India, Bombay university,
Gujarat government and GlaxoWellcome India. 

Their style is simple. They either pick web sites with a huge domestic
audience or governmental sites. Their messages are profane, insulting
and lack visual appeal. With its warped sense of humour G Force, along
with propaganda about Kashmir, usually puts up a few jokes about Indians
on the pages they hack. 

"In an interview I had done with G-Force, they revealed that members of
the group are mostly Pakistanis. In their words, 'We deface web sites
for a cause, which is for the good of our Muslim brothers.' So, this
group is quite motivated ideologically," says Srijith. 

The other group giving Indian network administrators sleepless nights is
the Pakistan Hackers Club. Led by 'Dr Nuker,' a handle used by its
leader, the Pakistan Hackers Club does not strike randomly at every
site, but makes calculated moves. 

The group has to its credit the hacking of web sites like the department
of electronics; the Ahmedabad online telephone directory; the Parliament
home page; and the United Nations, India sites. 

PHC usually goes for the big names in web sites. Parliament's home page,
for example. Like G Force, 'Dr Nuker' and his boys work to spread the
word about the freedom of Kashmir. But, unlike the G Force group, PHC is
less crude, and there is not too much profanity in the messages posted. 

Other groups strike sporadically. mOs, WFD and Silver Lords are some
names that crop up frequently on hacked Indian web sites. 

In January, the WFD group hacked into the technology ministry web site
and flashed 'Pakistan Zindabad' on the hacked front page. The hack was
discovered quickly and the site restored to its original self soon. 

In contrast to the plethora of Pakistani cyber warriors, India hardly
has any hacking groups. "I have not seen much of anti-Pakistan
defacements from Indian crackers. There is only one group that has shown
some recent activity. H2O or the Hindustan Hackers Organisation has
defaced a fair bit of Pak themed web sites," says Srijith. 

What spawns the army of anti-India hackers online? 

Ideological motivation is the main reason. Apart from that, hacking into
Indian web sites can also be the shortest route to 15 minutes of fame. 

"Most Pakistani groups consist of school or college-going teenagers.
They take pride in bringing down Indian and major Western web sites,
leaving behind messages in support of so-called Kashmiri freedom
fighters. Their tactics have also earned them 'recognition' at the New
York Times and CNN, which is a feather in their caps," says Zunaira
Durrani, a writer with SPIDER, a Pakistani Internet magazine. 

Hacktivism comes in other shades too. Mailing lists, chat rooms, letters
to newspapers online are all fair game when it comes to fighting the

Hacktivism is not always destructive. For instance, c4i, a mailing list
devoted to discussing threats to India's information infrastructure, has
many moderates on its rolls. 

There are hardly any provocative messages, and discussions are limited
to posting articles and arguing about the threats to India's computer
and telecom networks from external agencies like China, Pakistan and
extremist groups. 

Pakistan too has a few mailing lists that can be found on Yahoo groups.
But these are sparsely populated and hardly used. Hacker clubs are

What makes Indians, despite their acknowledged superiority in IT, less
combative online? 

First, the Indian hacking community is unorganised and prefers to work
alone. Indian laws actively discourage those who want to hack for a
lark. Under the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000, hacking is an
offence and irrespective of its objective could attract a penalty of up
to Rs 10 million (Rs 1 crore). 

More importantly, Indian hackers lack the religious and ideological
motivation to strike at Pakistani web sites. 

"Most Indians have good jobs in the well-developed Indian software
industry. Talented and educated people who are not gainfully and
productively employed tend to become crackers. Countries like Pakistan,
Brazil, Philippines, Colombia and Russia have well-educated and capable
IT professionals, but no software industry worth the name. Since these
professionals remain unemployed or underemployed, they turn to
cracking," explains Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad, an IT consultant who has
been actively studying information warfare and its consequences on

As Indian web sites fall prey to Pakistani hackers, the Indian
government has adopted a lackadaisical attitude. Since Kashmir, the bone
of contention between the two countries cannot be won over the Internet,
the government seems to be taking it easy. 

Two months after the external affairs ministry web site was hacked, the
site is not up yet. Soon after the incident, the MEA spokesperson
assured reporters the site would be back with improved security. Sources
close to the ministry are clear the site will be shut for some more

Musharraf's visit has not yet sparked off incidents online. But experts
believe a few attacks are around the corner, probably after the Agra
summit concludes. 

"While the summit happens offline, online there are elements who are
bound to create some disruptions. Going by the past, it is more likely
that Pakistani hackers will break into Indian sites and prove a point.
They are lying low, but they are definitely not gone," says a keen
follower of Indo-Pak relations in cyberspace. 

Cyber security experts fear that hacktivism, if unchecked, could emerge
as a threat to diplomacy. Information warfare, they believe, will be the
way the battles of the future are fought. 

"Hacktivism brings the methods of guerrilla theatre and graffiti to
cyberspace. It can be conducted by individuals acting alone or in
groups. It can exhibit elements of art and theatre. It can even be
humorous. But it is not benign, and it threatens diplomatic missions. It
can compromise sensitive or classified information and sabotage or
disrupt operations. At the very least, it can be an embarrassment to
those attacked and erode public confidence in the government," warns
Dorothy E Denning, a professor of computer science at Georgetown
University in the USA. 

Despite stringent laws against hacking, the Indian government is
handicapped. While it can trace where the hack has originated from,
there is little else that can be done. Even if the hackers are traced,
it is generally not considered worthwhile to get them extradited and

"While the Information Technology Act provides for extra territorial
jurisdiction, the condition is that at least one of the computers
involved in the crime be located in India. Also, the validity of such
extraterritorial jurisdiction is doubtful under international law,"
explains Prasad. "Under normal extradition law, India can extradite
people to stand trial in India only if the offence is also a criminal
offence in the country in which the suspect is located. Since most
countries like the Philippines do not explicitly define cracking as a
crime, it would not be legally possible to extradite the crackers to
stand trial in India."

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