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Spyware Invades Computers of Indian Foreign Ministry

Computer users at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) are facing a nightmare on account of a security breach as several systems at the ministry have come under a spyware attack just when the MEA is fully engaged in diplomatic activities after the recent terror attacks in Mumbai.

According to sources, several of the ministry's more than 600 computers have come under the spyware's attack. spyware is software that clandestinely loads on a PC to monitor the user's movements.

Moreover, investigation reports suggest that the problem first occurred on the PC of a Minister of State used by the Minister's private staff. But when other computers were checked, the spyware infection was found to be spreading widely. There are more damages a spyware program can do than by just monitoring e-mails, such as it can scan documents stored on a computer or even change their location.

Furthermore, preliminary reports indicate that there might have been multiple types of spyware inserted into the Ministry's network, probably via an electronic mail sent to a number of officials. Another source might have been travelling officials who use Internet connections at hotels.

While there was no statement released from the MEA on the attack, sources disclosed that a glaring irregularity was that whenever an infected PC would send out an e-mail message, its copy would automatically head for another e-mail address.

Reports further state that a thorough probe into the incident is in process to find out the extent of damage, with initial reports indicating a link between the spyware and a Chinese server. The computers disturbed belong to the Ministry's sensitive Pakistan division and to the Joint Secretaries' and senior Secretaries' offices. Nevertheless, the MEA emphasizes that there has been no breach of national secrets.

It is worth mentioning that such a spyware hack into the Indian MEA is not new. In May 2008, the MEA's network of internal communications allegedly suffered an attack from the Chinese hackers. Around that period itself, there had been another hacking attack into the National Informatics Center to weaken the National Security Council.

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