The take-down of the Kerala government website on Sunday has wildly escalated into a full scale cyber war between the two countries. The problem is, the war seems to have been started, and is being continued by individual players with nothing to lose.
Yesterday, news emerged that the Kerala government’s official website, kerala.gov.in, was hacked and defaced by a “suspected Pakistan-based hacker”. The police cyber cell is still probing the incident, and the website has since been restored.
However, mere hours after the incident came to light, hackers here in India had formulated a plan of their own. What has followed can only be described as coordinated cyber warfare, with at least 227 Pakistani websites being attacked, though that number has probably spiked since I’ve written this article.
The “counter attack”, titled #OpPak, is backed by a number of hacker groups in the country and, though a ring leader can be tough to identify, the main players are easy enough to pick out. Hell Shield Hackers is one of the groups leading the charge, a team comprised of hackers L@z@rus, Psychotic overload, Distroyer 404, poison operator, Darka NSH, and IN73CT0R D3VIL. Though there are likely other members, various tweets confirm that these few are the currently active members. There’s also theMallu Cyber Soldiers and IndiShell, who don’t seem to be active on Twitter right now, but are still thanked on a Pakistani website that was defaced.
Among the many Pakistani websites listed here that were defaced, hacked, or DDoS’d, a lot of them are government websites. Meanwhile, the hacker behind the Keralagovernment attack was one Faisal Afzal, a coder who has attacked Indian institutional websites in the past. And the Kerala government website wasn’t his only target it seems. Faisal 1337, as he calls himself, has also identified http://banking.csc.gov.in, http://insurance.csc.gov.in, http://gokdelhi.kerala.gov.in/, and even the Chennai customs website, earlier on September 26.
Hell Shield Hackers
Indian Hackers havent hacked a single pakistani site after 15th August 2015. But Faisal Afzal hacked kerala.gov.in .. Dude? We are not sleeping . If you even touch a Indian site, we will crush you up.. :3 .Now feel the heat pakistan.gov.pk hacked.
The Indian teams have taken up the mantle of avengers, calling themselves India’s “cyber warriors”. Some might see this as an overreaction to one man’s hacking. Others might see it as righteous payback for a slight from a Pakistani man, a country we have longed viewed with contempt, and vice versa. But is anyone else (like me) absolutely terrified by this entire thing? Let’s be clear, it does inspire a twisted sense of awe to see so many hackers unite under one banner to “defend” their national pride. But, at the end of the day, it’s likely not the hackers that will suffer the consequences of a cyber war.
One Pakistani hacker defaced an India government website but, to be fair, Hell Shield Hackers have themselves clearly stated that they attacked various Pakistani websites on August 15. This kind of back and forth isn’t really something that can be controlled by cyber security forces; there simple isn’t enough man power to monitor every individual, but at least it’s confined to a manageable level. But the scary part is that, our own hackers responded to this singular incident with brute force, taking down at least 227 websites in return. In war terms, that would be like responding to a cross-border raid by one platoon with a full-scale tank invasion of a border town. And you can be sure neither party is going to pull the plug easily; escalation begets itself, and it’s likely only a matter of time before Pakistani hackers rally and launch a counter attack of their own.
And the problem with these hacker teams duking it out is that their targets aren’t each other, but instead the institutions that they claim to be representing. A hacker team won’t be hurt a cyber attack, only the victim country’s functioning will. And yet, the tit-for-tat will continue, with hackers dealing out insults, and countries suffering the blows. It’s a mercenary war with countries on the line. And it’s likely to get very ugly very soon.