Gauging India's readiness in an era of cyber warfare | The Financial Express

Gauging India’s readiness in an era of cyber warfare

Two Indian think tanks came together to discuss India’s readiness in the event of a Hybrid War at a seminar named Cyber Manthan.

Gauging India’s readiness in an era of cyber warfare
India Future Foundation (IFF) and United Service Institution (USI) of India recently held a seminar "Cyber Manthan – Cyber Warfare in the era of Hybrid Warfare and India's Readiness."

In the backdrop of the the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine which is the first Hybrid War has undoubtedly demonstrated the impact of a potent combination of non-kinetic means of war with kinetic systems. Keeping in mind what the ongoing war heralds,

India Future Foundation (IFF) and United Service Institution (USI) of India recently held a seminar “Cyber Manthan – Cyber Warfare in the era of Hybrid Warfare and India’s Readiness.”

The seminar included participants from the country’s defence and corporate sectors. Those who shared their views on the topic at the seminar included Lt Gen. (Dr) Rajesh Pant (Retd), National Cybersecurity Coordinator-PMO, Government of India; Lt Gen. Vinod G. Khandare (Retd) Advisor, Ministry of Defence, Government of India; Maj. Gen. Ravi Chaudhary (Retd); Maj. Gen. Pawan Anand (Retd) Distinguished Fellow USI and Head USI-ANBI; Mr Jasbir Singh Solanki, Chief Executive Officer – Homeland & Cyber Security, Mahindra Defence System Limited and Mr Tom Burt, Corp VP, Customer Security & Trust at Microsoft.

Dimensions of counter-insurgency operations, policing, and maintaining law and order are also changing drastically, with disinformation and fake news skewing peoples’ perception of the conflict. State-sponsored terrorists don’t need biological weapons but virtual weapons like malware, botnets and APTs to disrupt state functioning and impact national safety and security.

In this regard, cyber security constitutes a critical dimension of the hybrid war. India’s progress in digitalising its society has outpaced many developed countries, but newer technologies open newer vulnerabilities in cyberspace. Further, India’s unique geographical position and the fact that India faces existential threats on many fronts raises concerns about India’s readiness in this context.

The distinguished gathering at the seminar not only shed light on what a Hybrid War is but how such a war is different from a traditional war and if India is ready to defend itself. The deliberations also discussed steps the Government is taking to prepare for a potential Hybrid War.

Maj. Gen. (Retd) Pawan Anand, Head USI-ANBI, started the proceedings, at the seminar and shed light on the geopolitical issues and how the nature of war is changing with time and the evolution of cyberspace, “Our Prime Minister also wants to have a Digital Armed Force so that we can be in a position where we can act and react on any kind of cyber threat, espionage or even war.”

Commenting on how critical telecom infrastructure is, in the era of hybrid warfare and the steps the Government is taking to make India ready Lt Gen. (Dr) Rajesh Pant (Retd), National Cybersecurity Co-ordinator-PMO, Government of India, added, “Considering the sensitive and strategic nature of communication networks, the Department of Telecommunication (DOT) is working on creating the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).”

Discussing the nature of a cyber war Lt Gen. Vinod G. Khandare (Retd) Advisor, Ministry of Defence, Government of India pointed out that, “There will be both governmental and non-governmental targets. Some cyberattack methodologies will be unheard of, unknown, and completely new. Even though India has a history of not attacking any country, it should be able to defend its sovereignty in the event of a cyber war.”

Speaking on the difference between a conventional/traditional war and a cyber war Maj. Gen Ravi Chaudhary (Retd) explained, “The traditional war was in the physical space. It has always been fought with three basic resources—firepower, mobility, and information. It was about death and destruction caused by firepower and mobility. Firepower and mobility remain in the physical space whereas information has shifted in cyberspace.”

Speaking about the role of technology companies, Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security & Trust, Microsoft, said Microsoft—independently and through close partnerships with others in private industry, government, and civil society—has a responsibility to protect the digital systems that underpin the social fabric of our society and promote safe, secure computing environments for every person, wherever they are located.

Throwing light on India’s position in a cyber war situation, if and when that happens, Jasbir Singh Solanki, Chief Executive Officer-Homeland & Cyber Security at Mahindra Defence System added, “Whether it is a conventional war or a cyber war, India has always adopted a defensive mode, and we take pride in it, but if we do not know the offensive side, the results will not be in our favour. We need to have those offensive capabilities, as well, to defend ourselves in the event of a cyber war.”

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First published on: 24-11-2022 at 21:13 IST