Digital vandals hit Canadian websites amid tensions with India

By Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A handful of Canadian websites were defaced and the site for the country’s armed forces was briefly disrupted Wednesday amid simmering tensions with India.

The low-level hacks were claimed by an obscure pro-India group going by the name “Indian Cyber Force,” whose logo includes an American bald eagle with orange and green wings, the colors of the Indian flag.

The hackers told Reuters via Telegram, “Everyone know” why they were targeting Canada but did not elaborate. The group has previously said it was retaliating against Canadian allegations that India had a hand in the killing of Sikh separatist leader outside Vancouver on June 18.

Indian officials have denied the charge and downsized the Ottawa’s diplomatic presence in India, issuing travel warnings and freezing visa issuance to Canadians.

Digital vandalism is typical whenever tensions between two countries rise and intrusions of the kind claimed by the Cyber Force rarely deal lasting damage. Several targeted websites appeared to have been picked at random; among them was an Ontario dental clinic.

The Canadian Armed Forces said in an email Thursday that the disruption had been limited to a few hours and has since been “rectified.” The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security said in a statement that “geopolitical events often result in an increase in disruptive cyber campaigns” and that it was keeping an eye out for developing threats.

(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)