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Tax department’s e-filing portal out of action for 2 hours

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-09-2017 Komal Gupta

New Delhi: The income tax department’s e-filing website (incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in) remained inaccessible to users for about two hours on Wednesday amid growing concern about cyber security threats to the financial sector and public infrastructure.

The reason for the website remaining inaccessible was not immediately known. Although, the deadline for individual tax payers to file tax returns for the last financial year ended on 5 August, businesses and professionals liable for a tax audit can file their returns by 31 October.

Tax return filing websites stalling due to overload of activity is not a rare event but this time, the disruption was perceived as abnormal as the website displayed the “suspicious activity detected” message.

Phone calls made to officials dealing with the department’s IT system remained unanswered at the time of publishing.

An official from the IT ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said if the disruption was caused by a malware attack or virus attack, the home ministry would be informed first.

Indian-Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), the nodal agency within the IT ministry dealing with cyber security threats, will provide technical assistance once the home ministry asks for help, the person said.

“Safeguarding taxpayer information is very critical. The department has to ensure strong security systems,” said Ved Jain, a former president of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.

India’s financial sector has become more vulnerable to cyber threats as the country pushes towards a less-cash economy. Last year, after a malware injection in the systems of Hitachi Payment Services Pvt. Ltd, compromised the security of about 3.2 million debit cards.

In June, operations at one of three terminals at India’s largest container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) run by AP Moller-Maersk, near Mumbai, were disrupted by a global ransomware attack, GoldenEye.

The ransomware had hit the integrated transport and logistics firm’s global operations across its 75 terminals. According to CERT-In, 27,482 cases of cybercrime were reported from January to June, Mint reported on 22 July.

Analysis of data from 2013-2016 shows that network scanning and probing, which is seen as the first step to detect vulnerabilities in systems so that sensitive data can be stolen, made up 6.7% of all cases while virus or malware attack accounted for 17.2%, the report said.

The government is currently working on setting up an independent Computer Emergency Response Team for Finance (CERT-Fin) to be the cyber warrior of the financial sector.

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