Categorized | China, India, US

Need For Indian Cyber Command

Cyber warfare attacks emanating from China and hitting targets in US have been old news for some time now. Business Week and other reputable American magazines have covered this growing form of threat extensively and have written in detail about the type of attacks, social engineering techniques used, level of sophistication of these attacks etc. that have been coming from computers located in China.

If the latest reports from Times of India (TOI), a leading Indian daily but which consistently lowers its standard to cater to the lowest common denominator, are to be believed, it seems India also is hovering on the Chinese radar screen. Nothing surprising though.

NEW DELHI: China’s cyber warfare army is marching on, and India is suffering silently. Over the past one and a half years, officials said, China has mounted almost daily attacks on Indian computer networks, both government and private, showing its intent and capability. According to senior government officials, these attacks are not isolated incidents of something so generic or basic as “hacking” — they are far more sophisticated and complete — and there is a method behind the madness.

Looking at the definition the article author gave for BOT, it is quite apparent they are not really familiar with the term:

A BOT is a parasite program embedded in a network, which hijacks the network and makes other computers act according to its wishes, which, in turn, are controlled by “external” forces.

Even a cursory research on Wiki would have told them that Bot is generally referred to a hijacked computer. Botnet is a group of bots, i.e. a network of hijacked computers. The computers are compromised via installing worms or trojans on the computer.

One real life instance mentioned by the author is the reference to the botnet attack on Estonia that literally shut down the country. The author basically summed up the dangers and showed the potent power of such attacks. Not to take away the case built by the author, but they shouldn’t fail to mention that it was an Estonian teenager who was eventually convicted for perpetrating the attacks.

However there is no denying about the clear and present danger exuded by this menace. What is still not clear, at least in the public purview, is the hand behind these attacks. Whether it is the an organized cartel of private individuals or the government apparatus, that has been consistently trying to gain unauthorized access to government and military networks.

When confronted with similar threat, America quietly went about setting up a strategic command to effectively deal with it. When the time came to recruit, their actions made it crystal clear that they meant serious business. 3 million cyber attacks a day ad, having a serving senior USAF general humoring folks at the geek and nerd forum – Slashdot, all this clearly bears testimony to their dedication to get their hands on the best that is out there.

In the case of India, I am not sure if anything other than inertia can be expected. That is, until a cyber-Kargil happens, heavens and earth would have to be moved to get something going on this front. I could be wrong but recently I saw the initiation and progression of this topic in one of the forums but nobody had any answers.

According to TOI, when politicians were asked to give a statement, most of them took refuge under the argument that ‘hacking’ is a ‘routine activitity’ and happens from many areas around the world.

Pathetic excuses that make you regurgitate. What an ignorant and asinine statement. Not that anything better was expected from them to begin with.

Unauthorized intrusion to steal classified government data is no different than allowing an enemy agent to walk the corridors of South Block and make get away with highly classified defense documents. Only in this case the soft copy of the data is stolen.

The TOI report further goes on to add that Chinese are keeping all sorts of tabs on the Indian network, constantly scanning and mapping it, just in case they have to disable to distract during a state of national emergency.

Imagine this plausible scenario. Next time some border debate gets heated or Tibet issue flares up, all the Chinese have to do is launch a calibrated cyber attack crippling the Indian networks, something akin to traditional arm twisting, and black mail the govt to bring it around its world view.

Having a ready and dedicated Cyber warfare department, in my view, is even more important than having an operational nuclear strategic command in terms of priority and effectiveness. Nuclear delivery and deterrence is envisioned in the worst case scenario. Where as the Cyber threat is an every day scenario. The more sophisticated and stealth attacks do not even come into lime light but end up causing incalculable damages in terms of money, resources and national interests.

In the traditional forms of military defense and offense, India’s own research and development has been shown to be quite lacking. We are dependent on Russia or Europe for majority our armaments, fighter aircrafts, and battle ships. US is also starting to come into picture as a defense supplier.

But the same does not have be necessarily so in the case of a Cyber command. This force would rely primarily on man power rather than anything else, and that is one area in which India has already proved its mettle. We have the best minds here and India is an acknowledged IT powerhouse. Our engineers are ruling roost in high tech companies around the world. From the same pool we can easily draw qualified talent to guide and equip in this endeavor.

The resources exist but the vision and determination is often found wanting among the leaders who make strategic policies. Hopefully this potent form of 21rst century threat is accorded the priority that it deserves in the national defense committees and some action is taken soon.

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