India is investigating whether last week’s outage of Airtel network in Delhi, alleged data breach of users of Reliance Jio Infocomm on Sunday and the technical glitch at the National Stock Exchange (NSE) on Monday were part of a “possible cyberattack.”
“The government’s senior cyber security officials are looking into both the Airtel and Jio incidents to see if they were possible attacks,” a senior government official told The Hindu, adding they expected to know more about the cases in the next few days. Another official said the attacks could have emanated from a neighbouring country.
2016 data breach
In 2016, security codes of around 32 lakh debit cards were breached and several users reported unauthorised transactions from locations in China. Events like this have prompted the government to have a customised cyber security policy for each ministry and department.
“The Home Ministry is preparing an internal cybersecurity policy as it is required under the national plan,” said Ashok Prasad, Ministry spokesperson.
In a statement on Sunday’s data breach, posted by a website, RJio said the “data of subscribers was safe and maintained with highest security.” It also said it had come across “the unverified and unsubstantiated claims of the website and are investigating it,” adding that the law enforcement agencies have been informed.
On July 7, Airtel’s Radio Access Network went down for more than an hour in and around Delhi. Airtel said there was a network outage in Delhi/NCR and “one of the network nodes had been corrupted.”
A senior Home Ministry official said about two years ago various telecom giants had been sensitised about the vulnerability of equipment and products imported from China. Both Airtel and Jio use Chinese equipment, an official said.
“We have been warning the telecom companies for long regarding the use of Chinese products. Earlier personalisation of SIM cards was being done by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for a fee, but later on the contract was given to Chinese companies. Essentially all telephone data is with the Chinese and we had warned against this dependence,” a senior ministry official told The Hindu.