India extends war against insurgency to cyberspace

Tuesday, 23 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India Monday extended its operations against insurgent groups from the northeastern region into cyberspace, blocking access to the website of an outlawed rebel group for promoting "anti-national" content.

The order for blocking the website of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) was issued by the department of telecommunications on instructions from the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), said an official spokesman.

"This is the first time that a website has been blocked under CERT since it came into being in July," the spokesman said.

CERT, a part of the department of information technology, is responsible for measures to counter cyber-terrorism and for monitoring anti-India propaganda in cyberspace. It is the country's only body empowered to ask the department of telecommunications to block websites.

Over a dozen insurgent groups are active in the seven northeastern states, and some of them have a sizeable presence on the Internet, using elaborate websites to promote their cause and dish out anti-India propaganda.

The HNLC, initially propped up by the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), has been operating for a little more than a decade. It is waging an armed campaign to create a separate homeland for Meghalaya's Khasi tribals.

The HNLC website, which was posted on the groups section of Yahoo, was "found to be promoting anti-national news and containing material against the government of India and the state government of Meghalaya", the statement said.

"The representatives of Yahoo in India were requested to remove the objectionable material from the reference. However, they declined to comply with the request," he said.

CERT was formed after several Indian websites, including that of the Mumbai-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, were hacked last year by persons based in Pakistan. It comprises experts from the National Informatics Centre, the body responsible for maintaining all government websites.

During the 1999 Kargil border conflict with Pakistan, India had blocked access to Pakistani websites.

The home ministry had been mulling action against websites of northeastern insurgent groups for several years. Sources said pressure was mounted on U.S.-based people who were maintaining websites for some groups, leading to the closure of these sites.

Though no action has been taken against the websites of other rebel groups, there were reports that web-users were encountering problems in accessing the NSCN-IM's website over the past few days.

Source: IANS
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