Did Cyber Warfare Trigger A Mass Exodus In India?

  • 12:00 AM, August 23, 2012
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Did Cyber Warfare Trigger A Mass Exodus In India?
A new era in cyber warfare seems to have emerged over the past week as an estimated 500,000 Indians, hailing from the country's North East fled the southern cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad following the circulation of anonymous text-messages threatening mass violence against them. The texts contained multi-media clips of violence and links to social networking sites showing graphic images of violence. The Indian government claimed that the text-messages were used as a new form of cyber war to cause mass panic and firmly pointed an accusing finger at Pakistan as the source of the offending SMSs. The source of some some of the messages and the multi-media clips they contained, was reportedly traced to locations in Pakistan. India's antagonistic neighbor has denied any connection with the text-messages. Following the mass exodus, the Indian government identified 309 URLs that were circulated using social media giants Facebook, Twitter and YouTube while the text messages were traced to a local organization, Popular Front of India (PFI) in Kerala and Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jehad al Islami (HuJI) by intelligence agencies. In the past, Pakistan has been accused of successfully breaking into India’s cyber security firewalls. In 2010, a group calling itself the Pakistan Cyber Army (PCA)hacked into the Central Bureau of Investigation’s website, similar to the U.S Federal Bureau of investigation. The PCA then followed it up by hacking into India’s telecom service provider BSNL’s website. In 2012, in just a span of three months the Pakistan-based hackers broke into 112 Indian government websites. India does not have a dedicated unit to either create or ward off cyber attacks. In contrast, Pakistan is suspected to have a "Cyber Army" the details are not very much in the open. India is yet to set up a proposed National Cyber Coordination Centre which would monitor threats and report them accordingly. Over the last few years, India has become prone to being on the receiving end of such attacks. In 2007, there were 217 such attacks and in 2010 and 2011 the attacks went up to 966 and 1,000 respectively. In an effort to curb the fallout of the threats, the government has resorted to blocking certain social networking sites and even imposed a ban on the number of SMS’s an individual can send each day. "Bulk of the content or information, which contained images and videos mostly morphed, aimed at targeting people of northeast. Most contents were taken from events unrelated to the incident that occurred in Assam. Hosting of such morphed image/video led to a lot of inciting comments from users on the blogs hosting these morphed images/videos and circulation of hate SMSs. It disturbed the peace and harmony among communities leading to public disorder and exodus of northeastern people from some parts of the country," the ministry of communication and IT said in a statement. Meanwhile Google, Facebook and Twitter have all agreed to comply with India’s concerns and are cooperating to remove the violent messages; users have expressed outrage claiming it violates their freedom of speech. By Bindiya Thomas
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