Beware! Not all govt sites are secure

Cautioning on the vulnerability of many of the government department websites, cyber experts say one should stay away from a website even if it has information released by the state government.
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CHENNAI: Next time you log into a government website searching for information related to any government department and see a warning on the site page saying the “website is not secure and your personal information can be compromised by attackers” the cyber experts warn you to better stay away from the website even though it has information released by the state government.

The above-mentioned warning message is not seen on any random website but in some of the key websites such as that of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department, Teachers Recruitment Board, Printing and Stationery department and so on. The warning message is an indication that the websites are not secure and can be hacked easily.

Though the websites do not involve any financial transactions, still the information available on the website can be compromised, say cyber experts. “The government websites such as that of Tangedco and the Greater Chennai Corporation which involve financial transactions are always kept secure but those websites that do not involve any financial transactions and are in read-only formats are the ones that are left without any security.

“However, there are chances that the information available on the websites can be hacked and altered so that people will get to read incorrect information about government websites. It is always safe for people not to proceed into such insecure websites,” Vinod Kumar Arumugam, a city-based cyber expert told DT Next.

He also said the easy way to find whether a website is secure or not is to check the box in which the website address is contained. If the website address contains the prefix http (hypertext transfer protocol) and not https (hypertext transfer protocol secure) then the website is insecure and it is for people to avoid such websites.

He further said the main reason for such insecure websites is the lack of maintenance by government departments. “While a website is launched, everyone makes sure that the website is safe and secure but after a period of six months or one year they do not renew the security certificates which results in the websites going insecure. When the government goes the IT (information technology) way it should ensure that everything is done properly and should come out of the old working style,” added Vinod.

When the Secretary of the Information Technology department, Neeraj Mittal, was asked about insecure government websites, he agreed that there are few such websites. “The prime reason for some of the websites being insecure is that they are maintained by the departments concerned and are not maintained by a single department. However, the state government under the ‘Know your government’ scheme is developing a project for centralised maintenance of government websites. The project will be implemented in another six months,” said Neeraj Mittal.

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