Digital vigil: Project Building in Ranchi
For a few minutes on Monday evening, panic gripped officials at the state-run Cyber Defence Research Centre (CDRC) in Ranchi when they suddenly sensed an unusual activity in the CBI’s central server in New Delhi.
According to CDRC sources, unidentified hackers — whose digital footprint roughly indicated a remote location in Southeast Asia — had left a rogue spam application that could completely compromise the CBI server and website.
But, the cyber prowlers had not taken the Dhurwa-based cyber watchdog CDRC into account. A little ethical hacking on the part of the CDRC team, which falls under the state’s home department, helped avert the unseen danger.
“Such attacks on Indian security agency websites aren’t new. But an attack on the CBI’s server means someone, somewhere was trying to poke here and there, hijack files, details, among others. Anything could have happened. However, the fact that CDRC managed to block the menace is a great achievement because it is only two or three months old,” said an intelligence source not willing to be identified.
A CDRC official said they sensed something amiss in their cyber intelligence gadgets around 6pm on Monday. “In no time, we alerted higher officials here as well in New Delhi. Things are under control now. Security forces generally don’t leak such news to avoid panic among people,” he added with a smile.
But S.N. Pradhan, IG (operations), who is instrumental in forming CDRC and heads a core team of two or three ethical hackers — their identities under wraps for security reasons — as well as 10 trained constables, confirmed the incident.
“The CDRC team has been bang on target. The organisation is very young but we are doing our best to give intelligence support to the state and Centre. Not that we are the best, but the months-old CDRC has made a pretty good start,” he said.
Over a month ago, the CDRC raised an alarm, informing the Union home ministry about a possible threat to the Trinamul Congress party’s website. Unfortunately, within a day or two, the website got hacked, as the party failed to take adequate precaution.
The CDRC’s main tasks are keeping the government and its agencies safe from cyber malfunction, undertaking research for better protection and creating awareness among people about cyber activities and activism.
Right now, the CDRC functions out of a space at police headquarters near Project Building, Dhurwa. According to Pradhan, they were in a buy-buy mode, with a slew of latest gadgets under the procurement process to add more security teeth.
“Software for vulnerability analysis testing, call details analysis, etc, help us track callers on real-time basis. There are other hi-tech hardware and software that we want to avail,” said Pradhan.
Officials said cyber clinics would be hosted in July across all districts in Jharkhand to sensitise people and dispose of cyber crime cases. “This apart, we will also host workshops at schools, colleges and cyber cafes to prevent threats, mischief and malpractices,” said Pradhan.
Do we have enough cyber cops to combat virtual crime?