The MTNL website was hacked around Thursday midnight by self-proclaimed Pakistani hackers, forcing the agency to close it down for almost 12 hours. It also raised fears of personal details of thousands of Mumbaikars such as addresses and phone numbers having gone into Pakistani hands.
Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd authorities confirmed that several logs (server files) had been destroyed, but said they were not vital or did not carry personal information. Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi explained that when a site is hacked, attackers usually take control of the servers and most information on them could have been compromised.
The MTNL authorities claimed they had beaten back the Independence day attack and restored the website by 11.15am on Friday. But the home page remained defaced and showed a message from the hackers flaunting the Pakistani Independence Day till it was cleared late in the evening.
MTNL ruled out the stealing of consumer data, saying only log files which are automatically created and maintained by a server of the activities performed by it have been compromised. "It is for sure that Mumbaikars' data is absolutely safe and not hacked as only the home page and logs have been destroyed," said MTNL executive director Piyush Agrawal.
The communications major has not approached the police yet. "We are yet to identify whose handiwork it was - whether it was from across the border or from within. We are still discussing how to take up the investigation and our complaint with the cyber cell," said Agrawal on Friday.
From a series of Facebook posts (to which the defaced website had pointed), it seemed that the hacker was 'celebrating' Pakistan's independence day, that falls on August 14, by targeting official Indian websites.
The MTNL spokesperson said the problem was noticed at midnight and corrective steps were taken immediately. "The site was restored at 11.15am on Friday," he said. But users reported that the home page was defaced till much later and was not clearing despite hitting the refresh button several times, as the authorities advised.
Last year, the MTNL website was disrupted by hacking group Anonymous to protest against "censorship" of the internet in the country.
Sources said the hacker, 'MrCreepy', in a social media post later, claimed that he had targeted the websites of Pune traffic police (punetrafficpolice.gov.in) and the NGO Janwani too. The home pages of the two websites were loading fine, but the files that the hackers uploaded to their servers could still be accessed via the direct links, meaning the administrators hadn't cleaned the servers, said the source.