Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cyber-wars for Pizza: It's no laughing matter....

Just a few moments back, I came across a news report on the internet, sourced from the Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, that seemed innocuous and laughable.
The report was about Turkish hackers stealing personal information of 100,000 Israeli citizens from Pizza Hut's Israeli website.
This incident sparked off a humour fest on Facebook, with quips. A guy called Stephen Phillips remarked "Because of the number of Turks owning fast food businesses the Turkish Government may want to deal with this, it's very harmful to their reputation and people will stop buying from any business that involves Turk management or food."
Another comment on Facebook, from Michael Pratt said "They are just jealous because the don't have any pizza there..."
J. Kriss White commented "Wondering what the Israeli hackers will target in retaliation..."
In all probability, this hacking would have been in retaliation for the Israeli attack on the Turkish flotilla headed for Gaza, but it exposed chinks in Israel's e-security armour. Haaretz assuaged fears and reported that their customers have little to fear as credit card details are not stored on the web server.
This incident reminded me of The Economist's recent cover story "Cyberwar: War in the fifth domain", which spoke of how the US planted a bug in a Canadian software controller for gas pipelines, which was stolen by the Soviets and installed for a gas pipeline in Siberia. The result was predictable - the pipeline blew off with an intensity matching that of an atomic explosion.
Cyber war is not a joke, It can cripple trade, finance and the monetary systems. Imagine what would happen if you woke up one morning to find that your bank account has a zero balance. Years of savings have been swindled, wiped off from the bank's system.
Worse, when you get to the bank to figure out what happened, you realise you are not alone, there are thousands who are affected by the e-breakin. All hell can be expected to break loose, undoubtedly rioting and social unrest will follow.
This scenario can play out going forward.
The Economist spoke of Iran claiming to have the largest "cyber army". We know China maintains it regiments, that have have routinely targeting Indian diplomatic, bureaucratic and economic interests.
But what is critical is for India to evolve an e-security policy, enact legislation to make e-security mandatory at economic installations and proactively target all those who could target us in the future.
Hacking of pizza data may be laughable, but it could be much more serious. Are we ready?

1 comment:

anshum said...

even after watching a recent movie Die Hard-4, based on the same topic, i was left contemplating about how deep is the influence of internet and cyber connectivity in our lives... and in some ways it is scary...

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