Did Chinese Firm Hack Indian Government Offices?

A Chinese hacker group, reportedly affiliated with China’s Ministry of Public Security, has been implicated in cyber espionage activities targeting key Indian government offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as prominent businesses such as Reliance Industries Limited and Air India. This revelation comes from thousands of documents, images, and chat messages posted anonymously on GitHub, a platform for developer collaboration on open-source projects.

Did Chinese Firm Hack Indian Government Offices?

The leaked documents indicate a broad spectrum of targets, not only within India but also including NATO and countries considered allies of Beijing, such as Pakistan. The data leak suggests a sophisticated network of clandestine operations, encompassing spyware deployments and surveillance activities conducted by Chinese state-linked cyber threat actors. These operations have been documented in machine-translated versions of the internal documents, originally in Mandarin, detailing their methods, targets, and the extent of their cyber attacks.

In India, the focus of these cyber espionage efforts included the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of External Affairs, and what is likely the Ministry of Home Affairs, referred to as the “Presidential Ministry of the Interior.” The hackers managed to retrieve 5.49GB of data from various offices of the Indian government between May and October 2021, amid heightened tensions between India and China due to border disputes.

Furthermore, the leaked data encompasses breaches involving user data from India’s state-run pension fund manager, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), state telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), and the private healthcare chain Apollo Hospitals. Detailed information from Air India’s passenger check-ins and about 95GB of India’s immigration details from 2020, a year marked by escalated tensions following the Galwan Valley clash, were also mentioned.

The leak has exposed China’s extensive cyber espionage activities, highlighting not only its focus on India but also on other nations, including its “all-weather friend” Pakistan, and various countries across Asia and Europe. This breach underscores the ongoing and complex nature of cybersecurity threats posed by state-affiliated hacker groups, emphasizing the need for enhanced cyber defense mechanisms on a global scale.

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