MEA computers hacked, but official says vital data not lost

February 15th, 2009 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

FacebookNew Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) The external affairs ministry Sunday admitted its computers are sometimes hacked, but underlined that it has set up mechanisms to ensure that no classified or sensitive information is lost in the event of such intrusions.

“It’s not alarming. All the sensitive data and information are intact. There is no compromise with internal security,” a diplomat, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

To ensure that no sensitive information is stolen, the ministry has instituted a stringent protocol on the usage of e-mail by serving officers that includes frequently changing passwords and using e-mails only for routine communication. Officers are not allowed to use social networking sites like Facebook or do blogging on office computers.

Most officers in the ministry have two computers - one that is connected to the Internet and the other that is meant for classified work. The ones connected to the Internet are susceptible to hacking and virus like all such systems are, explained the official.

The ministry has instituted a periodic security review of all MEA computers to ward off these cyber threats, he added.

The Intelligence Bureau conducted an audit of all government computers last year and found that the level of virus attacks on these Internet-enabled computers is no more than that of those in the corporate sector.

According to some media reports, several of the ministry’s 600-odd computers were infected by Spyware, a programme that latches on to a computer and takes control of the user’s actions. The reports said that the infected computers include those in the ministry’s sensitive Pakistan section.

In fact, hacking has been going on for the last few years, but these safeguards have ensured that national security was not breached. In May 2008, the MEA’s internal communication network was reportedly broken into by Chinese hackers, but the government insisted that no sensitive information was pilfered.

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