March 22, 2019

Article
22 Mar 2019

RANSOMWARE (GANDCRAB): WAY AHEAD FOR INDIA

Ransomware:

  • Ransomware is a kind of malware (software that damages the functions or gains unauthorised access to a computer system).

  • It is used to encrypt important documents or files within a system (Crypto ransomware) or simply lock the original user out of the system (Locker ransomware).

  • The user is then asked for a ransom in return for decrypting the files. Once the ransom is paid within a stipulated period, then the system is either unlocked or the system’s contents are deleted or the system is entirely corrupted.

  • Unlike other cyber-attacks, in this form of attack, the user is notified of the attack.

  • Ransomware spreads easily when it encounters unpatched or outdated software.

Trends in Ransomware:

  • Initially, ransomware attacks followed a pattern akin to fire and forget, that is, it was used for small scale extortion from individuals.

  • Now, however, the pattern has shifted to more focused and targeted attacks for larger returns like targeting the server of an organisation.

  • The effect is to turn entire organisations into victims rather than individual users, and the pay-off for the extra effort involved in performing this kind of an attack is often huge.

History:

  • The first ever recorded use of ransomware occurred as early as 1989 in the form of the AIDS Trojan,

  • However, this method gained prominence only after the unleashing of the WannaCry Ransomware in 2017. This was a massive attack that affected more than 200,000 systems in some 150 countries and accounted for a loss of several million dollars.

  • Since then, the use of ransomware attacks has seen an upward trend for committing cyber-crime.

  • Many new, better and customized ransomware are coming to the forefront. Those in the active stage include GandCrab and ZZZ.

GandCrab:

  • GandCrab was first spotted near the end of January 2018 and since then its attacks have been growing at a rapid pace.

  • It is generally distributed by “phishing emails” (an attachment in a malicious email gives the ransomware the required information) and “exploit kits” (any security holes that are detected by hackers in any software installed in a system can deliver ransomware to the system).

  • Following infiltration, ransomware starts collecting information like username, PC name, OS (Operating System) and other such data.

  • The virus also creates a unique ransom ID and starts encrypting files stored on the system. As a result, the user is no longer able to access encrypted files without a key which cannot be obtained without a ransom.

Impact of GrandCrab on India:

  • In the year 2018, GandCrab attackers were able to infect more than 50,000 victims and generate more than USD 600,000 in ransom payments from victims.

  • Though India had its fair share of ransomware attacks, however, there was an increase in the activity of the GandCrab Ransomware attacks particularly in the states of Gujarat, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.

Way ahead:

For now the only plausible option is prevention and risk management in the following ways:

  • Regularly patching and updating software released by companies.

  • Any important data should be spread across networks with appropriate backups, thus maintaining redundancy.

  • Stronger passwords and two-prong authentication should be ensured.

  • Continuous real-time monitoring within the system and firewalls to protect against any such attacks.

  • In case of an attack, affected network must be isolated to prevent the virus from spreading.

https://idsa.in/idsacomments/the-grandeur-of-gandcrab-kroy-220319

Science & Tech

March 20, 2019

Article
20 Mar 2019

J&K PRESIDENTIAL ORDERS: ANALYSIS

Background:

  • Under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, only two articles apply to J&K: Article 1, which defines India, and Article 370 itself.

  • Article 370 provides that other provisions of the Indian Constitution can apply to J&K “subject to such exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify”, and with the concurrence of the state government.

The 1954 Presidential Order:

  • The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 applied to J&K provisions of Part-III of the Indian Constitution that relates to fundamental rights.

  • It also introduced Article 35A — which protected laws passed by the state legislature of J&K in respect of permanent residents from any challenge on the ground that they violated any of the fundamental rights.

  • This order was ratified by the Constituent Assembly that also framed the J&K Constitution, before dispersing in 1956.

Amendments to 1954 order:

  • This 1954 ‘mother order’ had the requisite concurrence of both the state government and the J&K Constituent Assembly.

  • Subsequently, 42 Presidential orders have been issued — all amendments to the 1954 mother order.

  • Through these Presidential orders, successive central governments have extended 94 out of the 97 entries in the Union List, and 26 out of the 47 in the Concurrent List to J&K, and made 260 out of the 395 Articles of the Indian Constitution applicable to J&K.

  • This list does not include The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002, the GST Acts, and the two constitutional provisions that were extended on March 1.

Views of the Supreme Court:

  • Prem Nath Kaul vs The State of Jammu & Kashmir (1959): The Constitution-makers were obviously anxious that the said relationship should be finally determined by the Constituent Assembly of the State itself.

  • Sampat Prakash vs State of Jammu & Kashmir, 1969: Presidential orders could still be made through Article 370.

  • Maqbool Damnoo vs State of Jammu And Kashmir, 1972: Governor is head of government aided by a council of ministers and is responsible to the State Legislature.

Governor and the 1954 Order:

  • Earlier, the Centre has amended the 1954 Order with the consent of the Governor’s administration.

  • In 1986, an amendment to the 1954 Order issued with the concurrence of Governor Jagmohan administration extended to J&K Article 249 of the Indian Constitution. The order was challenged in the J&K High Court, however the matter was never listed for a hearing.

  • Amendments were made to the 1954 Order during Governor’s Rule in 1993 and 1994 as well. These orders were issued to extend the duration of President’s Rule in J&K.

The Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Amendment Order, 2019:

  • On March 1, President Ram Nath Kovind issued an executive order amending The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 to extend the provisions of the 77th and 103rd Amendments to the state.

  • According to union government, the amendment “will give benefit of promotion in service to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and also extend the 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections in educational institutions and public employment”.

Opposition to recent move:

  • This move by the Union Government has been challenged in the Jammu & Kashmir High Court.

  • Major J&K parties said the order violated Article 370 — the provision that regulates J&K’s relationship with the Union.

  • Two lawyers have challenged the power of the Governor to make the recommendation without the concurrence of the state government, and pleaded that the recent executive order along with the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, be struck down.

View of experts:

  • The latest order has the consent of the Governor without the requisite aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. In a situation of Central rule, the Governor acts only as a nominee of the Union government and does not meet the definition of state government as laid down by Article 370 and the Supreme Court.

  • Major J&K parties have always opposed the amendments to the 1954 Order without ratification by the Constituent Assembly of the state. The Centre could do it because the Supreme Court allowed it.

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/how-jk-presidential-orders-have-worked-why-move-faces-challenge-5634728/

Polity & Governance

March 13, 2019

Article
13 Mar 2019

MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT (MCC): EXPLAINER

Recently, the Election Commission ordered that social media posts of a poster showing Wing-commander Abhinandan, shared by a BJP leader, be taken down as it was in violation of the MCC on social media. 

About: 

  • What is it? Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for political parties and candidates is a set of norms evolved with the consensus of political parties and enforced by the Election Commission of India. 

  • Objectives: 
    • To help the Election commission of India to conduct free and fair elections and maintain high standards of public morality. 

    • To provide a level playing field between contestants so that ruling party doesn’t misuse its position to gain an unfair advantage by taking decisions that can help them in the elections. 

    • To ensure that parties and candidates show respect for their opponents, criticise their policies and programmes constructively, and not resort to mudslinging and personal attacks. 



  • Government’s Covered: At the time of the Lok Sabha elections, both the Union and state governments are covered under the MCC. 

  • Duration of enforcement: 
    • The code is enforced from the date of announcement of election schedule till announcement of election result. 

    • However, the Commission can’t make its announcement more than three weeks ahead of issuing the formal notification of elections. 



Evolution of MCC: 

  • The Model Code of Conduct for election was for the first time adopted for Assembly Election of Kerala way back in 1960. 

  • The Election Commission decided to emulate Kerala’s example and circulate the draft among all recognised parties and state governments for the Lok Sabha elections of 1962. 

  • However, it was only in 1974, just before the mid-term general elections, that the EC released a formal Model Code of Conduct. This Code was also circulated during parliamentary elections of 1977. 

  • Until this time, the MCC was meant to guide the conduct of political parties and candidates only. However, just before the 1979 Lok Sabha elections, released a revised Model Code with one part devoted to restrictions on the party in power once elections were announced. 

  • The MCC has been revised on several occasions since then. 

Contents of MCC: 

  • Part I deals with general precepts of good behaviour expected from candidates and political parties. 

  • Parts II and III focus on public meetings and processions. Parts IV and V describe how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves on the day of polling and at the polling booths. 

  • Part VI is about the authority appointed by the EC to receive complaints on violations of the MCC.

  • Part VII is on the party in power. 

  • In 2014, the Commission introduced Part VIII on manifestos, pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court. 

Restrictions for the party in power: 

  • The MCC forbids ministers (of state and central governments) from using official machinery for election work and from combining official visits with electioneering. 

  • Advertisements praising the work of the incumbent government using public money are to be avoided. 

  • The government cannot announce any financial grants, promise construction of roads or other facilities, and make any ad hoc appointments in government or public undertaking during the time the Code is in force. 

  • Ministers cannot enter any polling station or counting centre except in their capacity as a voter or a candidate. 

  • However, the Code does not halt the ongoing schemes of development work or welfare, relief and rehabilitation measures meant for people suffering from natural calamities. However, the EC forbids the use of these works for election propaganda. 

Social Media and MCC: 

  • According to the Election Commission, MCC will also apply to content posted by political parties and candidates on the Internet, including on social media sites. 

  • In 2013, the Commission laid down guidelines to regulate the use of social media by parties and candidates. 

  • Candidates have to provide their email address and details of accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., and add the expenditure on advertisements posted on social media to their overall expenditure for the election. 

Recent example: 

  • Recently, the Election Commission ordered that social media posts of a poster showing Wing-commander Abhinandan, shared by a BJP leader, be taken down as it was in violation of the MCC on social media. 

  • This is probably because the EC did not have a mechanism to coordinate with Internet companies to take down impermissible content. However, these firms have now assured that they would cooperate with the EC during the coming Lok Sabha elections. 

Legal status: 

  • It is not under a law, it is not even under conduct rules in short it has no statutory backing. 

  • Governments have in the past attempted to amend The Representation of the People Act, 1951, to make some violations of the MCC illegal and punishable. 

  • However, the commission is of the opinion that making the Code legally enforceable would be self-defeating because any violation must be responded to quickly — and this will not be possible if the matter goes to court. 

Enforcing the MCC: 

  • It is not a legally enforceable document, and the Commission usually uses moral sanction to get political parties and candidates to fall in line. 

  • There are examples of the EC taking punitive action against violators. 

  • For instance, during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, it banned BJP leader Amit Shah from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, and ordered criminal proceedings for making “provocative” statements while canvassing. The ban was lifted after he apologised and promised to not violate the MCC again. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/model-code-of-conduct-election-commission-5623510/ 

Polity & Governance

March 12, 2019

Article
12 Mar 2019

GLOBAL ARMS TRADE (2014-18): SIPRI REPORT

According to new data on arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia has replaced India as the world’s largest arms importer from 2014-18. 

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): 

  • Location: SIPRI is an international institute based in Stockholm, Sweden. 

  • Established in: 1966. 

  • Purpose: 
    • It is dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. 

    • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. 



SIPRI Arms Transfers Database: 

  • The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database contains information on all international transfers of major arms (including sales, gifts and production licences) to states, international organizations and armed non-state groups from 1950 to the most recent full calendar year, 2018. 

  • SIPRI data reflects the volume of deliveries of arms, not the financial value of the deals. 

  • As the volume of deliveries can fluctuate significantly year-on-year, SIPRI presents data for five-year periods, giving a more stable measure of trends. 

Major Trends: 

  • The volume of international transfers of major arms in 2014–18 was 7.8 % higher than in 2009–13 and 23 % higher than in 2004–2008. 

  • The five largest exporters in 2014–18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China. Together, they accounted for 75 % of the total volume of arms exports in 2014–18.

  • The five largest importers in 2014–18 were the Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and Algeria. Together they received 35 % of all arms imports. 

  • The main recipient region in 2014–18 was Asia and Oceania (accounting for 40 % of global imports), followed by the Middle East (35 %), Europe (11 %), Africa (7.8 %) and the Americas (6.2 %). 

  • The imports of arms increased to the Middle East between 2009–13 and 2014–18, while there was a decrease in imports to all other regions. 

United States: 

  • The gap between the USA and other arms exporters has widened. US arms exports grew by 29 % between 2009–13 and 2014–18, and the US share of total global exports rose from 30 % to 36 %. 

  • The gap between the top two arms-exporting states also increased: US exports of major arms were 75 % higher than Russia’s in 2014–18, while they were only 12 % higher in 2009–13. 

  • More than half (52 %) of US arms exports went to the Middle East in 2014–18. 

Middle East: 

  • Middle Eastern arms imports almost doubled in the past five years as conflicts and tensions are rife in the region. 

  • Arms imports by states in the Middle East increased by 87 % between 2009–13 and 2014–18 and accounted for 35 % of global arms imports in 2014–18. 

  • Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer in 2014–18, with an increase of 192 % compared with 2009–13. 

  • Arms imports by Egypt, the third largest arms importer in 2014–18, tripled (206 %) between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Arms imports by Israel (354 %), Qatar (225 %) and Iraq (139 %) also rose between 2009–13 and 2014–18. 

China: 

  • Exports: 
    • China was the fifth largest arms exporter in 2014–18. Chinese arms exports increased by 2.7 % between 2009–13 and 2014–18. 

    • China delivered major arms to 53 countries in 2014–18, compared with 41 in 2009–13. Pakistan was the main recipient (37 %) in 2014–18 followed by Bangladesh. 

    • China’s arms exports are limited by the fact that many countries—including 4 of the top 10 arms importers in 2014–18 (India, Australia, South Korea and Vietnam) will not procure Chinese arms for political reasons. 



  • Imports: 
    • Chinese arms imports decreased because China has been more successful in designing and producing its own modern weaponry. But it was still the world’s sixth largest arms importer in 2014–18. 

    • China remains reliant on imports for certain arms technologies such as engines for combat aircraft and large ships as well as long-range air and missile defence systems as its own arms industry has yet to develop the technological capability. 



India: 

  • India was the world’s second-largest arms importer from 2014-18 (accounting for 9.5% of the global imports), ceding the long-held tag as largest importer to Saudi Arabia (12 %).

  • Indian arms imports decreased by 24 % between 2009–13 and 2014–18, partly due to delays in deliveries of arms produced under licence from foreign suppliers, such as combat aircraft ordered from Russia in 2001 and submarines ordered from France in 2008. 

India and Russia: 

  • Russia accounted for 58% of Indian arms imports in 2014–18, compared with 76% in 2009-13. On the other hand, Israel, the U.S. and France all increased their arms exports to India in 2014-18. 

  • Arms exports by Russia decreased by 17 % between 2009–13 and 2014–18, in particular due to the reduction in arms imports by India and Venezuela. 

  • However, the Russian share in Indian imports is likely to go up sharply during the next five-year period as India signed several big-ticket deals recently, and more are in the pipeline. These include
    • S-400 air defence systems, AK-203 assault rifles, 

    • four stealth frigates, a second nuclear attack submarine on lease, 

    • and deals for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-range air defence systems. 



Pakistan: 

  • Pakistan stood at the 11th position, accounting for 2.7% of all global imports. 

  • Its biggest source was China, from which 70% of arms were sourced, followed by the U.S. at 8.9% and, interestingly, Russia at 6%. 

  • Despite the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan, arms imports decreased for both countries in 2014-18 compared with 2009-13. 

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-is-worlds-second-largest-arms-importer/article26502417.ece

Defence & Security

March 6, 2019

Article
06 Mar 2019

USAs GSP PROGRAMME: IMPACT ON INDIA

U.S. President Donald Trump notified Congress his "intent to terminate" preferential trade benefits to India and Turkey under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) eligibility criteria. 

About: 

  • Under the United States Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, nearly 2,000 products including auto components and textile materials can enter the US duty-free if the beneficiary developing countries meet the eligibility criteria established by Congress. 

  • The GSP criteria include respecting arbitral awards in favour of US citizens or corporations, combatting child labour, respecting worker rights, providing intellectual property protection and providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access. 

  • Countries can also be graduated from the GSP programme, depending on factors related to economic development. 

  • India was the largest beneficiary of the programme in 2017 with USD 5.7 billion in imports to the US given duty-free status and Turkey the fifth largest with USD 1.7 billion in covered imports. 

Recent decision: 

  • USA has given a 60-day withdrawal notice to India on the GSP benefits extended by US. 

  • According to U.S. President Donald Trump, India had "not assured" the US that it would "provide equitable and reasonable access" to the markets of India in accordance with the GSP eligibility criteria. 

  • Trump, who has vowed to reduce US trade deficits, has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs. In October 2018, the US President described India as a "tariff king" as he reiterated his allegations that India has a high tariff rate on various American products. 

Possible impact on India: 

  • India’s Department of Commerce feels the impact is “minimal”, given that Indian exporters were only receiving duty-free benefits of $190 million on the country’s overall GSP-related trade of $5.6 billion. 

  • Some experts feel the move will not have a major impact on India also because it has been diversifying its market in the Latin American and the African region. 

  • At the same time, the move could hit Indian exporters if it gives an edge to competitors in its top export categories to the US. 

  • This could impact India’s competitiveness in items groups such as raw materials in the organic chemicals sector alongside items such as iron or steel, furniture, aluminium and electrical machinery. India’s exports of organic chemicals to the US stood at $1.4 billion in 2017, US Census data showed. 

  • According to the Commerce Ministry, about 1,900-odd products exported to US with GSP may be impacted. 

Options for India: 

  • These changes announced may not take effect until at least 60 days after the notifications are sent to the US Congress and the governments of India, and will be enacted by a Presidential Proclamation. 

  • Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhwan indicated that the government would continue to engage in “internal” discussions on these issues and that the “door for discussions” with the US was “always open”. 

  • India, in June 2018, had intended to impose higher tariffs on 29 goods imported from the US in retaliation to the country’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products. The move, which could potentially impact products like walnuts, almonds and chickpeas, has been deferred several times. 

Concluding remarks: 

  • The amount of price advantage India has versus competitor countries and what happens to their GSP privileges will determine the extent to which India’s exports will be impacted. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/what-the-us-trade-rap-means-donald-to-terminate-india-gsp-beneficiary-5612768/

International Relations
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