Was the Supreme Court website hacked?

Reportedly a group of Brazilian hackers are behind it.

 |  4-minute read |   19-04-2018
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Days after the reported firewall breach of the official website of the ministry of defence and some other government websites, reports have now emerged of the Supreme Court of India website also being hacked on Thursday (April 19).

Users trying to access the website currently are redirected to a message informing that the "site is under maintenance". However, many users on the social media website, Twitter, have posted screenshots from the initial minutes of the reported hack which shows that the website's security protocol was breached by a group of hackers from Brazil. 

There is no clarity on why the website was hacked, or if it indeed was the work of the Brazillian hacker group called the "High Tech Brazil hack Team". The message that accompanied the hack too has helped little to make things any clearer. As screenshots show, the reported hack was accompanied by a message in Spanish which reads “te amo linda pequena... melhor amiga que ja tive,” followed by a symbol that appears to resemble the image of a cannabis leaf. 

'Black day for Indian democracy'

The reported hack ironically took place shortly after a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of CJI Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud dismissed pleas seeking an independent probe into the alleged mysterious death of special CBI judge BH Loya, ruling that he had died of natural causes and that the petitions filed with it were politically motivated.

At the time of his death, judge Loya was presiding over proceedings in the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which BJP president Amit Shah was also an accused. Officially, Loya died of a cardiac arrest on December 1, 2014, in Nagpur where he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague's daughter. 

However, a batch of pleas, including those filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla and Maharashtra-based BS Lone have contested the finding and approached the top court seeking an independent probe into the judge’s death. Pleas that were in one broad stroke shot down by the apex court. 

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan who is also one of the petitioners in the case responded by saying that the verdict ensures that today would go down as “a black day in the history of Supreme Court’. he went on to add that the judgment was “very unfortunate”.

High Tech Brazil HackTeam

The group that is being seen behind the attack has previously claimed responsibility for taking down and defacing a number of Indian websites back in 2013. As per a report published in The Hindu, identifying as “High Tech Brazil Hack Team,” these hackers defaced Indian websites by pulling down servers and taking control of them. However, unlike today, the Brazilian hackers had then replaced the homepages with a video which appeared to be shot with a "vine" application.

The move had sparked off a cyber war with a group of Indian hackers then retaliating by breaching as many as 37 Brazilian websites. Terming it as a cyber war, they said: "Big mistake what you have done. Now, we stand for our motherland. Want a cyber war? Ask for it you will be served."

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Was it really a hack?

Only the government knows.

Interestingly, today's reported hack comes merely days after the ministry of defence website was also hacked. Several reports had then claimed that the website was hacked by Chinese hackers as it showed a Chinese character which translates to "Zen".

Responding to such reports, minister of defence, Nirmala Sitharaman, had tweeted to confirm that it indeed was a hack and that the government had initiated a probe in the case and that "the website shall be restored shortly" and that all possible steps "required to prevent any such eventuality in the future will be taken".

But later, the country's cybersecurity chief cited "hardware failure" as the reason for the government website facing downtime, rejecting reports of cyber attacks. In a statement, he categorically rejected that there was "no cyber attack on any government website or any sabotage." He termed it a "hardware failure, affecting around 10 government websites."

Though it's too soon to say if today's case similar to the aforementioned ones, it won't come as a surprise to many if the government comes out and declares today's incident too as another case of "site maintenance".

Also read: Tamil Nadu journalists pen sharp letter to governor for 'harassing' woman journalist

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