By Vijay Darda | 20-07-2020
Hacking of bigwigs’ accounts or theft of Britain’s coronavirus research work are not usual incidents
The news about hacking of accounts dominated the last week’s headlines which made us realise the seriousness of the growing threat of cyber warfare. The twitter accounts of several veteran politicians and bigwigs including former US President Barack Obama, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, businessman Elon Musk and many large corporations were hacked.
The second news originated from Britain. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) alleged that Russian hackers are targeting organisations that are developing vaccines for the coronavirus. The NCSC claimed that these hackers belong to the Russian intelligence agency and are acting at the behest of the Russian government. Earlier, the US had also alleged that Russian hackers are stealing research related to the vaccine.
The third news that made headlines was about several countries including the US, the UK, India and Australia tightening the screws on Chinese company Huawei. Now everyone is realising that in the case of 5G, the company which is trying to make inroads into every country is a serious threat to the cyber world. There are allegations that this Chinese company can spy for China through its equipment. Although Huawei has been in constant denial about it, the world still has doubt. China has been accused of cyber theft anyway. That is why India has banned 59 of its apps.
These incidents are indicative of the fact that the time to come will pose threats far more serious than just cyber theft. In a way, the serious threat of cyber war has begun to loom large over the world. It may be noted that every year more than 20 lakh cyber attacks occur worldwide. After Britain, China and America, most attacks are targeted against India. The strength of these cyber attackers can be gauged from the fact that in May 2017, in the biggest cyber attack, hackers captured more than two lakh computers in 150 countries around the world.
The question is who exactly these hackers are and who do they get the support from? It is believed that a generation of hackers was born in Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Internet world was not so well developed at that time and there was no better system of security. Later, Russia realised that these hackers can be very useful. Therefore, it created a secret place for hackers in its intelligence agency Federal Security Service (FSB) and started training them with alacrity. In 2007, Russian hackers launched a major cyber attack on neighbouring Estonia and hacked hundreds of websites. The following year, a similar attack was launched on Georgia which destroyed all the government websites. Today, it is believed that Russia has the largest and most powerful cyber army. These hackers have been accused of things like interfering in the US presidential election to targeting the media of Western countries.
As far as the cyber army is concerned, Russia is followed by America, China and Israel for possessing the powerful cyber armies and they are closely followed by the European countries. The US is increasingly trying to beat Russia in building the powerful cyber army. Hackers’ Fair is held every year in Las Vegas. People of every age demonstrate their skills in this fair. American officials say that through this fair, they try to understand how the mind of a hacker works but in reality they handpick hackers for their cyber army. The combined strength of the US and Israel makes it more effective in cases of cyber attacks. In 2012, both of them wiped out the entire data from the system hard drive of Iran’s oil industry. However, in response, Iran destroyed the data of more than 30,000 computers of Saudi Arabia.
And yes, how can we forget the cyber army of North Korea! There the talented students in the age group of 13 to 14 years are recruited in the cyber army so that they can become the best hackers. The world knows that North Korean hackers have siphoned off crores of rupees by carrying out large cyber attacks on many banks in the world. Many Indian banks have also fallen prey to their cyber attacks.
It is no longer a secret that the CIA keeps a close watch on terror and drug funding worldwide. To know how much funds have been transferred and from where, the accounts are hacked. Countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Iraq have been under its constant watch for years. The CIA had revealed how a scientist in Pakistan was getting money for nuclear bomb formula. Many more corrupt practices were brought to light. After all, it is with the terror and drug funding that the illegal weapons market flourishes. Besides, these intelligence agencies also play a crucial role in bringing or retaining the Prime Minister or President in power, as per their advantage and convenience. There is a lot of hacking involved in it. Sometimes, the US and Israel work together at some places or separately at others. Even when the Soviet Union was crumbling, the CIA was doing its job promptly. However, Russia has also become a big player after Putin’s arrival. The Russian cyber army is not only engaged in cyber crime but also has the potential to play a big role in biological attacks. The world has evidences to substantiate it.
The cyber army has the potential to attack the banks of the enemy and pauperise it, and weaken the enemy by wiping out data of its defence installations. This is a new kind of threat which is assuming alarming proportions. Looking at the future, we should also build our strong cyber army which may not attack any country because harming others is not our culture. But our cyber army should have enough capability to thwart enemy attacks. And yes, we should also be vigilant at personal level as cyber attack can happen anywhere including your mobile phone as well as your bank account!
Let there be no doubt that the world is moving perilously close to cyber warfare. The country with greater cyber capability to wipe out other country’s data will be more powerful. Many countries across the world have their own cyber army too. Right now, Russia is at the forefront but the US is an old player in this area and its association with Israel is making it more powerful.