Russia-India-China meeting on cyber security may hamper Indian interest, say experts

Even as India is taking the satisfaction to bring down hacking attempts by Beijing, and secure its cyberspace, after the recent meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia India, and China at Moscow, internet policy experts feel that the communique issued at the end of meeting is against India’s national interest.

Sources said that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, in a closed-door meeting with her two counterparts, had taken up the issue of threats to cyberspaces and continued attempts of hacking from across the borders.

India is now taking satisfaction that at the communique issued at the RIC meeting has now bound China to share information about hackers. But the internet community think otherwise.

The communique stressed on “the importance of providing timely and appropriate responses to requests from one another for information and assistance concerning malicious incidents and activities” to combat international organised crimes. It further spoke of the need for an “international universal regulatory binding instrument under UN auspices” to combat the use of information and communications technology for criminal purposes. Apart from that, it speaks of internationalising internet governance to aid the role of the International Telecommunication Union.

Cyber security expert Saikat Datta says that although the discussion may not have a prominent implication, it helps act in international positioning. “Because India, Russia and China are parts of the BRICS, this could also be a measure to counter the hegemony of the US government, and may be a bid to pressurise them,” he says.

Raman Jit Singh Chima, global policy director at Internet rights group Access Now and a founding volunteer of, says that India’s stand is surprising. India’s position in calling for a regulatory binding instrument under the UN does not seems to be in line with the national interest.

“It also does not seems to take into account the political concerns and constitutional approach of India, and there seems to have been no domestic discussion on the issue,” he says. “It it surprising that India accepted the demands made by Russia and China, as the Indian position on this has never explicitly supported the Internet being regulated by a binding UN instrument under the vague ground of combating criminal acts on ICTs.”

Raman adds that there are concerns of Russia’s own regressive domestic Internet laws on cyber security, and many have expressed concerns about aggressive espionage attempts from groups based in China in this context. It is widely believed that the Chinese government has state-sponsored hackers that indulge in massive data episionage.

In 2010, NSA MK Narayanan said that computers in his office, and in other government offices have been hacked by Chinese hackers. Later that year, Chinese hackers reportedly broke into classified files of the defence ministry and Indian embassies around the world, gaining access to several missile and armament systems.

In 2014, Chinese hackers let loose a virus that collected data from sensitive computer systems at the country’s Eastern Naval Command headquarters and sent the data to Chinese IP addresses. This is in addition to the innumerable attempts to hack into the computers of the Tibetan government in exile functioning in India.

Last year in a reply to the Parliament, the minister of communications and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed that in 2014 and 2015 (upto May), 32,323 and 9,057 websites have been hacked, and that Chinese, American, Bangladeshi and Pakistani hackers are most responsible for it.

“The speak on the need to enhance the role of the International Telecommunication Union in Internet governance, too, is a take-off from India’s stand two years ago when then IT minister Kapil Sibal said in Dubai that India will not take a stand without discussing it further internally,” said Raman.
January 2010

M. K. Narayanan, India’s National Security Adviser, said his office and other government departments were attacked by China on December 15. The Prime Minister’s office later denied that their computers had been hacked. Narayanan said this was not the first attempt to penetrate Indian government computers.
April 2010

Chinese hackers reportedly broke into classified files at the Indian Defence Ministry and Indian embassies around the world, gaining access to Indian missile and armament systems.
July 2012

A Shanghai-based group linked to the Peoples Liberation Army and identified as “Byzantine Candor” in leaked U.S. cables collected against a range of targets, including European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, UK Defense research firm Qinetiq, and a commercial entities in the U.S, Europe, and India.
July 2012

Indian naval officials confirmed that a virus had collected data from sensitive computer systems at the country’s Eastern Naval Command headquarters and sent the data to Chinese IP addresses. The virus allegedly entered the Navy’s network | Last Modified March 10, 2014 12 via infected USB drives, which were used to transfer data from standalone computers holding sensitive files to networked systems.
March 2013

The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation was hacked by an unknown source, believed to be Chinese. Thousands of documents are uploaded to a server with an IP address in Guangdong, China.
March 2014

Indian defense sources say classified material may have been compromised when around 50 computers from the armed forces and the Indian defense research organization were hacked. India’s National Security Advisor reiterated the need to keep computers with internet access separate from those used for confidential work. Indian sources say they face mounting online espionage attempts by China and Pakistan


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