While Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor is a regular on Twitter — the hottest, new social networking site — his Ministry has directed its officials not to visit such sites using the office Internet connection.
The reason: Many of these websites have been either engineered or compromised. This, among others, is part of the “computer security instructions” issued by the MEA to counter the growing threat of cyber attacks on India.
Sources said cyber security was being accorded “topmost priority” by the MEA following a report by the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto in March.
The report stated computers at several Indian embassies were hacked into and infected with GhostNet, a China-based cyber espionage network. In all, 1,295 computers were infected in 103 countries.
There was no evidence to link the Chinese government to the cyber attacks. There have also been cases where e-mail identities of MEA officials had been stolen and then used.
“There are a series of attacks against computers. We do what we can and what we need to prevent it; or even if it does happen, to make sure the consequences are non-catastrophic and the consequences are minimised to the extent that we can…Malware is out there,” Foreign Secretary Shivshanker Menon said in March.
Officials have been asked to “strictly comply” with these instructions and a schedule of checks is being drawn up, to commence from July 20.
“Use of wireless technology such as WiFi, BlueTooth etc is not permitted inside office premises. Please switch off these interfaces on your computers/ mobile devices,” an official MEA note, accessed by HT, said. “Use alphanumeric characters when creating passwords and avoid creating passwords with dictionary words, which can be easily guessed.
“Unlike physical files, computer files and data can be stolen without triggering any alarm. Users may never come to know that their data is being stolen,” the note added.