Maharashtra cyber department on Tuesday issued a warning about Chinese cyber attackers planning a large scale phishing attack and stated that over 40,000 suspected attacks on sites related to information, infrastructure and banking were witnessed in the last 4-5 days.
The advisory comes close on the heels of a similar warning issued by India’s official cybersecurity agency in the backdrop of recent India-China border clashes that have led to the worsening of relations between the two countries.
“In the last 4-5 days, resources on cyberspace of India especially related to information, infrastructure & banking have been under attack from China. At least 40,300 such cyber attacks were attempted, most of them can be traced to the Chengdu area of China,” Maharashtra Cyber Department Special IG, Y Yadav was quoted as saying by a news agency.
A report published on June 18 quoting intelligence officials had claimed that China had opened another front against India with sustained DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks on Indian information websites and the country’s financial payments system.
The attacks attempted to flood a network with artificially created internet traffic and targeted a variety of sites including government websites and the banking system including ATMs.
The report claimed most of these attacks were traced back to the central Chinese city of Chengdu—a city known as the hub of hackers and also the headquarters of the Chinese Army’s Unit 61398, which is PLA’s covert cyberwarfare section.
It is said that several hackers in Chengdu work under the patronage of government agencies to camouflage their operation for official deniability.
Indian agencies had warned that Chinese cyber attackers could also carry out a massive phishing attack in the guise of a free COVID-19 test.
Australia, too, recently suspected a Chinese hand in a massive cyberattack on several of its strategic sites targeting administration, industries, essential services, critical infrastructure and political organisations among others.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had hinted at China’s role by describing the attacks as “malicious and sophisticated” and carried out by “state-based cyber actor”. He further added that “there are not a large number of state-based actors that can engage in this type of activity”.
Australian experts explicitly named China for the attacks. Australia has been vociferously supporting the demand for an international investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and has also backed India’s calls for reforms of the World Health Organization in the aftermath of its initial handling of the crisis.
China had retaliated with tariffs on Australian exports, including barley and beef.
The recent warning is the latest in a series of such alerts issued including the one released last Friday which cited the threat of a cyber attack by North Korea-based cybercriminals.
As preventive measures, all the central security forces have been asked to direct their employees against opening or clicking on attachments in unsolicited e-mail, SMS or messages through social media.