Sunday, October 25, 1998 Published at 01:08 GMT
War of words on the Internet
The Kashmir a Paradise homepage - hackers hardly give up
By Laurence Peter at BBC Monitoring
Hacking, previously dominated by teenage computer whizzkids, often with no particular axe to grind, now looks set to become a propaganda weapon.
Recent cyber-attacks on an Indian army Website and a pro-Albanian Kosovo site both bear the hallmarks of nationalist ideological campaigns, and in Belarus, hackers posted defamatory material on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's own Web pages.
Strangers in Paradise
On 16 October, 1998, the Indian news agency PTI reported that "suspected Pakistani intelligence operatives" had "hijacked the Indian army's only Website, Kashmir A Paradise, which gives the Indian view on Kashmir.
The Website's guestbook, where users can leave comments, was "full of anti-India superlatives and four-letter adjectives," PTI reported, describing the attack as "part of a cyberwar launched ahead of the Indo-Pakistani talks," which began in Islamabad that day.
PTI quoted unnamed defence ministry officials as saying there was an urgent need to have an Internet policy to counter such attacks, but in August an Indian supreme court lawyer, Pawan Duggal, told PTI that India was "totally ill-equipped to tackle the onslaught of cyber crimes".
The Kashmir A Paradise site was soon back to normal, but a week after the attack the homepage still warned: "Desperate hacker keeps on trying," "3 attempts in 3 days".
Revenge of the Black Hand
On 20 October, 1998, the Kosovo Information Centre (KIC), which supports the party of the ethnic Albanian leader, Dr Ibrahim Rugova, reported that "hackers claiming to be members of the Serbian terrorist organization Crna Ruka [Black Hand] hacked its Web page.
The hackers posted a copy of the Serbian national symbol, and captions in Serbian and English:
"Welcome to the Web page of the biggest liars and killers!", and "Brother Albanians, this coat of arms will be in your flag as long as you exist!"
The KIC said visitors were "outraged by this hacking", the provider in New York was contacted to prevent further intrusions.
The pages were restored, but the hackers soon returned with a vengeance.
"This site is hacked by Serbian Hackers Team Crna Ruka.
Earlier, the independent Belgrade-based news agency Beta reported that a Serb hacker had forced a Swiss Internet provider to withdraw an edition of the Kosovar Albanian newspaper Glas Kosova from the Internet, by posting anti-Kosovo Albanian messages on the newspaper's Website.
The provider managed to contact the hacker in Poland, who said he was a Yugoslav student. But when he noticed he was being monitored, he damaged the hard disk of one of the Swiss provider's computers, Beta reported.
New Challenge for Russian Spooks
The Russia TV channel last year reported that there were "regular attempts by hackers to penetrate the state authorities' computer networks".
The head of Russia's Federal Agency for Government Communications (FAPSI) warned that abuse of modern communications technology could "affect the psychology of nations".
In neighbouring Belarus, the Website of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been repeatedly hacked into, the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.
On one occasion, hackers opened a new Website with an image of Lukashenka "which starts turning, before your very eyes, first into Hitler, then into Stalin, then back into Lukashenka," the paper said in July.
Race to stay ahead
Governments are now urgently trying to stay ahead of the game as information technology becomes ever more sophisticated and widespread.
BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.