Over a dozen official websites including those of defence and home ministries were hit by an outage which was blamed on hacking but the national cyber security chief maintained it was caused by a technical glitch. Officials said tonight that efforts were underway to fix the affected sites. The National Coordinator of Cyber Security Gulshan Rai said a hardware failure was detected after some of the prominent Government websites that were hosted on the servers of National Informatics Centre(NIC) went down displaying an error message to visitors. The statement from Rai contradicts a tweet by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had earlier claimed it to be a hacking incident. “Action is initiated after the hacking of MoD website. The website shall be restored shortly. Needless to say, every possible step required to prevent any such eventuality in the future will be taken,” she had said in her tweet. A Defence Ministry spokesman had said “we are seized of the matter. The National Informatics Centre, which maintains the website, is trying to restore it”.
The spokesperson had claimed that there were chinese characters on the website, indicating the possible involvement of Chinese hackers. However, within hours of Sitharaman’s tweet, NIC tweeted “mod.gov.in is NOT HACKED. There is some technical issue since 2:30PM today”. The NIC tweet also explained the that the chinese character appearing on the Defence ministry website was the “default logo” of Drupal, a content management software being used.
Explaining the outage, Rai said the websites have been down since afternoon after it was noticed that there was a “storage area networking system” failure. “The same is being addressed. It is only a hardware failure,” said Rai, who has been working in the field of cyber security since 1998. “There is no hacking or cyber attack,” asserted Rai, who heads the cyber security unit.
Rai, who was earlier heading the computer emergency response team, said that nearly a dozen government websites hosted by the NIC including defence, home, department of law and labour were affected by the outage. “The hardware is being replaced and they will be up very soon,” Rai said. The website of the home ministry was temporarily taken down as part of extra precautions. An official spokesperson of the Ministry of Home Affairs said “no hacking of MHA website. It is down for technical reasons. The NIC is in the process of technical upgradation”.