National Security Adviser Ajit Doval stated on Monday that not only territorial integrity but also national sovereign cyber space must be protected. Doval included cyberspace in his remarks about the first-of-its-kind “hybrid” war between Russia and Ukraine, in which both armies deployed cyber weapons as a crucial operational component.
Doval claimed that state actors have been targeting India’s essential infrastructure, and that the country must prepare for difficult times ahead, citing recent cyber warfare in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine issue as an example. “Each side is defacing websites, targeting IT systems, and launching influence operations with offensive tools.” “Hackers all around the world are picking sides,” he claimed.
Big technology corporations like Microsoft and Google, according to Doval, have also played a key part in the conflict, emphasising the necessity of keeping cyberspace safe for consumers, businesses, and governments.
“Threats in cyber space have direct implications for social, economic, and national security,” Doval told top government officials and heads of India’s critical sector organisations participating in the country’s first-ever national cyber security incident response exercise (NCX India).
More than 100 cyber warriors are being trained in handling cyber intrusions, malware detection, digital forensics, and strategic planning to safeguard cyber space by the National Security Council Secretariat, the Data Security Council of India, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
National cyber security coordinator Rajesh Pant, a retired lieutenant general, said there has been an upsurge in ransomware and supply chain threats around the world. He cited the recent ransomware attack on Oil India Limited as evidence of the necessity for all organisations to work together to effectively tackle these attacks.
According to Doval, bad actors have a good opportunity to target important assets during the Covid epidemic because work from home, vaccine registrations, and key government services have all gone online. “With the establishment of a huge number of digital services by the government, the country has undergone a digital revolution.” “Any effective digital transformation requires a strong foundation in cyber security,” he stated.
Cyber experts have stated that developing indigenous expertise to secure cyberspace at the national level is critical.
Unlike the EU countries, India is alone in cyberspace, where its cyber diplomacy with friendly nations is still in its infancy and defensive and offensive capabilities are limited. While India will benefit from learning from the recent Russia-Ukraine situation, the problems it faces may be greater.
In 2016, NATO recognised cyberspace as an operational area, similar to air, marine, or land, where cyber defence was the responsibility of the political-military leadership.
It was de facto agreed under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that a cyber attack might cause harm similar to that of an armed attack, and so becomes a case for collective defence. As a result, NATO cyber fast response teams are ready to respond quickly if any of the partners are subjected to a cyber attack.
India has no allies; nonetheless, its adversaries, China and Pakistan, are continually attempting to damage India’s cyber security and infiltrate its critical infrastructure. Dr. Gulshan Rai, India’s first cyber security coordinator, told THE WEEK that Ukraine has been able to withstand large attacks thanks to NATO’s rapid response teams and the National Cyber Security Centre in the United Kingdom.
Even as submarine cables and nuclear plants are threatened by hackers in cyber space and weaponry on the ground, Ukraine’s army’s signal corps, which handles military communications, is under continual attack. “A community of countries is needed to deal with similar threats in the future,” he warned.
With hybrid warfare determining the future of all conflicts, Christopher Ahlberg, CEO of Recorded Future, a global intelligence firm based in the United States, warns that this conflict will shape both aggressions in Taiwan and India.
According to sources, the government is moving quickly to declare numerous major bodies in critical sectors such as telecom, power, and banking as critical infrastructure in order to safeguard them from cyber attacks like the one seen in Ukraine.
The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is now the nodal entity in charge of securing the country’s critical infrastructure. However, these bodies must be designated as “critical infrastructure” by the central ministries in charge of infrastructure in order for them to be included in the NCIIPC’s mandate.
It’s been learned that important federal agencies and state governments have been dragging their feet on the issue. The power sector, for example, includes companies that manage power generation, distribution, and transportation, whereas the telecom sector includes telecom service providers as well as government and private telecom agencies. Banks, on the other hand, are merely one part of the country’s financial system.
“For the NCIIPC to successfully step in to assist, each institution must be officially notified as a critical infrastructure by their parent organisation,” an official stated.
Misinformation efforts on a worldwide scale are another important part of hybrid warfare. New Delhi, unlike Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter Services Public Relations, which has a well-established social media campaign, still lacks a centralised framework to deal with worldwide misinformation efforts.
It’s been nearly two months since Russian troops began their military invasion of Ukraine, and while the conventional war has been contained, governments are concerned about the frantic, uncontrolled activity in cyberspace, where global threat actors, both state and non-state, continue to have a field day due to the lack of geographical boundaries.