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India to greenlight state-sponsored cyber attacks

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The Indian government is stepping up its cyber security capabilities with plans to protect critical national infrastructure from a Stuxnet-like attack and to authorise two agencies to carry out state-sponsored attacks if necessary.

Sources told the Times of India that the government’s National Security Council, headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh, is currently finalising plans which would give the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) the power to carry out unspecified offensive operations.

India is also hoping to co-ordinate its defensive capabilities better, in the event of an attack which could debilitate its critical infrastructure.

The country was reportedly hit by Stuxnet, although it doesn’t appear to have caused any serious damage and was unlikely to have been a deliberately targeted attack.

With this in mind, the NTRO is likely to be called on to create a 24-hour National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIPC) to monitor threats, while sector-specific Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) will also be recommended, the report said.

The NTRO and Intelligence Bureau (IB) will be given responsibility for the security of various government networks, it added.

The Indian government is some way behind the US and UK in its formulation of a coherent national cyber security policy, and has been criticised in the past for its slow response to denial of service and web defacement attacks.

Most recently it has been under fire from hacktivist collective Anonymous in retaliation for it stance on illegal file sharing, while hackers from neighbouring rival Pakistan are thought to represent a constant threat.

Last month Symantec warned that the lack of security know-how among the country's growing urban population and small and medium sized businesses is being exploited with increasing ruthlessness by criminals. ®

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