Nepal needs to understand the gravity of security threat emanating from its inability to control cyber crime
The latest investigation by khabarhub.com on a group of North Korean nationals clandestinely operating illegal hacking from the busiest neighborhood in the capital city of Kathmandu shows Nepal’s homeland security could be in threat. It signifies an alarming crisis of Nepal’s security in compliance with its commitment to the international forums like the UN. It the situation persists, it won’t be long before Nepal is branded a criminal hub.
After two months of investigations, khabarhub.com tracked down a cybercrime site. According to its website, “a group of North Korean hackers has remained surreptitiously active in operating cyber espionage from Apartment No 16 ‘A’ of the Harmony Housing at Tokha, especially targeting banking and financial institutions across the world.” The report further mentions that the gang took resort in Harmony Housing in collaboration with some Nepali nationals. The principal objective was found to be targeting banks, financial institutions and organizations as well as retrieving sensitive information from different intelligent organizations. They supplied this data, facts, and information back to North Korean government which is under crippling economic sanctions.
As per the report, the group mobilizes its secret observation around the world including America and UN. They are said to have installed a private network server known as Virtual Private Network (VPN) being administrated from India, Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Taiwan which enables them to shroud their unlawful act from public detection. The report says the group “worked around the clock to work for the North Korean army intelligence agency amassing money from various countries.” It seems to be a sponsored unlawful package politically aimed at ransacking money.
Needless to say, North Korea is an arch-rival of the US and UN. The UN has imposed strenuous sanctions at all levels possible citing its illegal nuclear program and human rights violations. Apart from harboring unending animosity toward South Korea, North Korea endures regular isolations and condemnations for not cooperating with the UN concerning their nuclear program and human rights violations. It has cost the country a lot. Recognizing North Korea’s notorious and tyrannical activities, UN in consensus with its member countries categorically banned its political, cultural, social interaction with the rest of the world. One of the devastating restrictions is concerned with anathematizing any travel by North Korean nationals across any part of the world. What’s crucially worrying is, any country architecting any sort of diplomatic connection with North Korea is criticized and even inculpated by international community. In such scenario, Nepal might be dragged into constant surveillance.
Geographically, Nepal is sandwiched between two Asian giants, China and India. Nepal’s weakness in maintaining harmonious relationship between the two has become a matter of tragedy. Due to widespread global influence, the issue of security holds a paramount concern. Ironically, Nepal’s security is being threatened dominantly by looming external dangers.
The two biggest challenges are cyber crime and religious war. It’s consoling to observe that Nepal is not vulnerable to any of them to date but we don’t seem to have paid much attention to cyber hacking incident mentioned above. Nepal will be under international watch if such unlawful crime is found to have been carried out from our land. Geo-strategist expert, Arun Subedi calls this incident “serious”. Paying a heed into its future consequence, former diplomat Dr Suresh Chalise argues, “Foreign hackers operating from Nepali territory is a matter of grave concern and could prove very costly for the country” adding that it may draw the attention of international forum.
Nepal shares open-border with India, which is more prone to potential conflicts. India has been undergoing frustrating religious clash between Muslim and Hindus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘anti-Muslim’ disposition may have generated hostile feeling among radical Muslim extremists. The frequent terrorist attacks in Indian land shows how India’s struggle against terrorism might result in a security threat. Anti-India elements might make Nepal a ground to operate from given our open border system. Officials of the two countries talk about this sometimes but in interactions but they don’t seem to have come up with a concrete proposal on how to combat that threat.
Nepal must stop counting on its neighbors for advancing its security system to discourage the criminal activities. Pointing finger at Nepal’s defective security management and recommending what the government should do Devi Ram Sharma, former Chief of National Intelligence Department of Nepal, said “several North Koreans coming to Nepal on a tourist visa, are found to be involved in unlawful activities. The government has to bring such elements to book.”
He argues that the government has been indifferent toward strengthening surveillance and detecting such activities. “Nepal should abide by the international commitment on such matters,” he said.
Inability to control cyber crime is surely going to attract the notice of international community. Nepal needs to understand the gravity of security issue. Security should be the integral part of our foreign policy. In addition to formulating programs and policies for socio-political and cultural development, we must at the same time work for enhancing security as well.
The author is a lecturer at Trinity College, Dilli Bazaar