Context: Recently, evidence has emerged of a Chinese government-linked company’s attempt to monitor the digital footprint of thousands of Indian citizens.   

More on the news:

  • The government of India was apprised last year of a malware threat (linked to a Chinese state-backed firm) in segments of its power infrastructure. 
  • Now, a cyber intelligence firm claims another Chinese government-linked hacking group has targeted the makers of the two vaccines currently used in India’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Various surveillance and hacking attempts: 

  • ShadowPad: Recently, a steep rise in the use of malware - ShadowPad, by a Chinese group to target a large swathe of India’s power sector, has been observed.
  • On vaccines: A cyber intelligence firm Cyfirma (Goldman Sachs-backed) said a Chinese hacker group known as Stone Panda had identified gaps and vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure and supply chain software of Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India. 
    • These companies have developed Covaxin and Covishield, which are currently being used in the national vaccination campaign. 

Possible reasons of these cyber attacks:

  • Recent incidents of border clashes between India and China: As bilateral tensions continue to rise, a continued increase in cyber operations being conducted by China are expected.
  • China’s geopolitical interests: It is a very well established fact that the use of cyber offensive tools and espionage is a fairly active element that China seems to be adopting and encouraging. 
  • A tool of distraction: Sometimes these offensive operations are carried out to distract people from other places that they might be targeting.
  • Competition: When vaccine companies are targeted, the motive could be competition, to gain a competitive advantage over Indian pharmaceutical companies.


  • Lack of information: Lack of information about these attempts could leave other companies and government bodies vulnerable to such attacks.
  • Little clarity on the government’s chain of command: Where cybersecurity issues are concerned, as different agencies deal with this issue. This makes it difficult to understand who all to approach in the event of such cyber threats.

Types of Cyber Attacks

  • Malware stands for malicious software, refers to any kind of software that is designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network. 

Ex: Ransomware, Pegasus(Spyware), Worms, viruses, and Trojans are all varieties of malware.

  • Phishing: It is the method of trying to gather personal information using deceptive e-mails and websites.
  • Denial of Service attacks: A Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack is an attack meant to shut down a machine or network, making it inaccessible to its intended users. 
    • DoS attacks accomplish this by flooding the target with traffic, or sending it information that triggers a crash.

Latest Cases:

  • Pegasus(2019): It is a Israeli made spyware that works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone. 
  • WannaCry(2017): The ransomware locked user’s devices and prevented them from accessing data and software until a certain ransom was paid to the criminals. 

Laws related to Cyber Security in India:

  1. Information Technology Act, 2000:
    1. The act lists down following as offences:
      1. Tampering with computer source documents.
      2. Hacking with computer system
      3. Act of cyber terrorism i.e. accessing a protected system with the intention of threatening the unity, integrity, sovereignty or security of country.
      4. Cheating using computer resources etc.
    2. The act regulates use of computers, computer systems, computer networks and also data and information in electronic format.
  2. National Cyber Policy, 2013:
    1. It aims to 
      1. Create a secure cyber ecosystem.
      2. Create mechanisms for security threats and responses to the same through national systems and processes.
        1. National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) functions as the nodal agency for coordination of all cyber security efforts, emergency responses, and crisis management.
      3. Secure e-governance by implementing global best practices, and wider use of Public Key Infrastructure.
      4. Provide protection and resilience of critical information infrastructure with the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) operating as the nodal agency.
        1. NCIIPC was created under the Information Technology Act, 2000 to secure India’s critical information infrastructure, based in New Delhi.
      5. Promote cutting edge research and development of cyber security technology.
      6. Build Human Resource Development through education and training programs to build capacity.
  3. Cybersecurity Policy 2020 - Need for a new policy:
    1. New technologies: Rapid technological developments such as Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, internet of Things, 5G, etc. 
    2. New challenges: Include data protection or privacy, law enforcement in evolving cyberspace, access to data stored overseas, etc. 
    3. Bearing on existing laws: A pending data protection legislation right now under screening of a Joint Select Committee in Parliament and which mandates some amount of data localisation in its present form.