Cyber War between China and India: Stuxnet, INSAT 4B, Attacks and Indian Operating System


In July this year, half of the 24 transponders on INSAT-4B shut down.  The DTH companies in India from Doordarshan to VSNL and Sun TV were without service.  So, they shifted to AsiaSat – which uses a Chinese Satellite ASIASAT-5 instead.  AsiaSat is owned by General Electric and China International Trust and Investment Co. (CITIC).  The latter is owned by the Chinese Government.

In a seemingly unrelated incident, in June an Internet virus Stuxnet had been discovered and it was affecting computers the world over.  It was initially thought to be targeting Iran’s Nuclear Program, but someone wasn’t so sure.

Jeffrey Carr wrote on his Forbes Blog:

What does this have to do with the Stuxnet worm that’s infected thousands of systems, mostly in India and Iran? India’s Space Research Organization is a Siemens customer. According to the resumes of two former engineers who worked at the ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, the Siemens software in use is Siemens S7-400 PLC and SIMATIC WinCC, both of which will activate the Stuxnet worm.

Breitbart explains what Stuxnet can do and harm the world:

The virus targets control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.
“This malware is specially designed to sabotage plants and damage industrial systems, instead of stealing personal data,” an engineer surnamed Wang at antivirus service provider Rising International Software told the Global Times.

The virus propagates by affecting Windows computers and gets transmitted through USB sticks.

Now, the Indian officials at ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) have countered that it doesn’t seem to have been the Stuxnet which did INSAT 4B in but it was a power supply anomaly in one of the solar panel that brought the transponders down.

Speaking to TOI from Bangalore on Monday, Isro officials, requesting anonymity, said that the worm only strikes a satellite’s programme logic controller (PLC).
“We can confirm that Insat-4 B doesn’t have a PLC. So the chances of the Stuxnet worm attacking it appear remote. In PLC’s place, Insat-4 B had its own indigenously-designed software which controlled the logic of the spacecraft,’’ said a source.

However, ISRO is “very” interested in Jeffrey Carr’s forthcoming presentation in Abu Dhabi.

Irrespective of whether Stuxnet was a “Weapon” created by China against India or not, it is clear that China and India are locked against each other in the next major war out there – the Space and Computers war.

India to come out with its own Operating System

As so many Government systems have been affected by the cyber attacks, most of them originating from China; India is looking for radical solutions.  One being – creating its own Operating System which is safer than others.

It is believed that a sanitised, lower level operating system and application software may be preferred to the advanced versions, which necessarily require access to internet for upgrades.

Last year the PMO computers were hacked by China and the Pakistani and Jehadi hackers routinely target Indian Government websites.  DRDO says that a center each in Bangalore and Delhi have been set up to work on this project.  A team of 50 Software Development professionals are working on it.

Dr. VK Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Indian Defense Minister said:

“We have to protect it (data).  Only way to protect it is to have a home-grown system, the complete architecture…source code is with you and then nobody knows what’s that.”

So, be prepared for future Defense interests being brought up in the area of Software and Internet.

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