Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi, Dec. 1. (Shahbaz Khan/PTI)
A day after the hacking of Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter account, the official Twitter account of Indian National Congress was also hacked, Dec. 1, with the party saying some messages laden with expletives and profanities were posted online. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #India #Twitter #RahulGandhi #INC #CongressPartyofIndia @INCIndia #OfficeOfRG
The hacking of the Congress Vice President’s Twitter account led to twin probes by the Delhi Police and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) following a complaint by the party.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the matter is being taken very “seriously” and prompt action has been taken. “We are seeking the details of all those who logged in that twitter account in the last one week to probe it further.”
Gandhi’s Twitter account was hacked, Nov. 30, and some obscene remarks were put out online for around an hour. On Dec. 1, his email was also hacked, the party claimed.
Blaming “fascist” forces for the hacking, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it reflects the extremities of an intolerant culture that resorts to abuse when cornered and claimed the party has fought such “hatred and animosity” with Gandhian compassion and tolerance.
He also said this exposes weaknesses in cyber security networks in India.
The Congress filed a complaint with the Cyber cell of Delhi Police on the hacking of the two twitter accounts, the party website and the email accounts of Congress and Rahul Gandhi. The complaint was filed by Surjewala, demanding registration of a criminal case and strict action against those behind the hacking.
The Delhi police, on its part, initiated a probe into the incident and has written to the management of the social media site seeking necessary details. A case has been registered in the Economic Offences wing under Section 66 of IT Act.
Surjewala confirmed that first @OfficeOfRG and then @INCIndia twitter accounts were hacked by “lumpen fascists.”
Surjewala said he has filed a complaint on behalf of Congress to Delhi police and said the onus is on Modi government to ensure digital security and punish the guilty.
“Free speech and right to disagree in India is under attack by licensed trolls. Such despotic and vulgar attempts reflect the extremities of an intolerant culture that resorts to abuse when cornered and left answerless,” he said.
“Indian National Congress has fought such hatred and animosity with Gandhian compassion and tolerance. ‘Sabko sanmati de bhagwaan’ (May God give better sense to all),” Surjewala said on Twitter.
He also tweeted, “Cyber attacks on @INCIndia and @OfficeOfRG exposes the vulnerability of cyber security and Digital platforms in India. An eye opener for Modiji!.”
Earlier, Gandhi tweeted, “To every one of you haters out there. I love all of you. You’re beautiful. Your hatred just doesn’t let you see it yet.”
Congress later tweeted, “Hello everyone! We are back. The tweets in the morning lacked wit, evidently. Anyway, Mr. Modi, back to people’s questions, care to answer?.”
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has started probe into hacking of Gandhi’s official Twitter account.
Sources at Twitter said there was no security breach at their end, but the accounts may have been compromised through breach of e-mail.
“As far twitter account of Rahul Gandhi is concerned, when it came to my notice, I took it very seriously. Twitter representative of India was contacted and all offending tweets were removed,” Prasad said.
Allaying fears about the cyber security system, Prasad said, “I want to assure the country that our cyber security mechanism is fine. We are taking all steps to further reinforce it. When this kind of thing take place we take prompt measures.”
“We also came to know that Congress has lodged an FIR in the case. Whatever is possible on our part, we will cooperate with Delhi Police IT cell for this,” he added.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said nobody from the government or BJP is involved in the hacking incident.
Congress MP Deepender Hooda said the hacking incident only exposes the perils of the digital world and the cyber security that exists in India.
Taking a potshot at the Modi government’s Digital India move, he said, “It also exposes the hollowness of the Digital India. There is a question mark on the whole push going towards digital as your server is not safe.”
Surjewala, in his complaint, Dec. 1, told the police about the hacking of the verified twitter account of Indian National Congress i.e. @INCIndia (http://twitter.com/IncIndia) as also the website i.e. www.inc.in and consequent email account of Indian National Congress i.e. email@example.com.
“We would like to bring to your attention that approximately between 9.30 AM and 10.00 AM in the morning of Dec. 01, 2016; twitter account, website and email account mentioned aforesaid were hacked, compromised, illegally accessed, interfered with and manipulated,” he said.
“Ilk of BJP MP’s & central committee members should stop rumor mongering to protect hackers & divert attention. Pl worry about Digital safety,” he tweeted.
Congress had raised questions on the digital safety of all Indians and said it reflects disturbing insecurities of the prevalent “fascist culture” in the country.
Gandhi’s account was hacked Nov. 29 around 8:45 PM and some messages with profanities were put out, but these were deleted soon thereafter.
“Such lowly tactics will neither drown the sane voice of reason nor deter Rahul Gandhi from raising people’s issues,” Surjewala had said.
“Such unscrupulous, unethical and roguish conduct of venal trolls to hack Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter handle reflects disturbing insecurities of prevalent fascist culture.”
Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel also tweeted, “The way @OfficeOfRG a/c got hacked, as cybercrime and Twitter watched helpless raises serious Q’s on digital safety, Digital India future.”
“Those forcing country to adopt online payment overnight, have they taken steps to ensure a/c of ordinary ppl will be immune from hacking?,” he also said.
Earlier a MEITY official said in response to a PTI query, “We are probing the incident (hacking of Gandhi’s account).”
MEITY’s cyber security arm Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) will investigate the matter.
CERT-In has authority to collect information stored or communication carried out by any computer in the country for the purpose of cyber security.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said some things are “inevitable” in the cyber world.
“Hacking happens. It has happened to me and so to others.
At the same time, Twitter is a relatively secure platform and this suggests that there were some significant forces behind it,” he said.
Another Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury said it is high time that the government gets its act together and questioned whether there has been an intelligence failure.
“You have a PM who is sitting and saying I am not safe, there is a risk to my life. It’s not that some tiny hacker has gotten into it. You need high technology. Is there an intelligence failure in the country that they (govt) do not who did this. I suggest that this government should get its act together,” she said.