Technological advancement has changed the battlefield i.e from trenches during World War I to cyber warfare of the 21st Century. The wars of the future will not require an overwhelming military to win battles but advanced technology will be adequate enough to do much damage. The wars would be won without firing a bullet.
On April 6,2022 China backed hackers had attacked power grids in Ladakh during the time when both the nuclear armed countries were engaged in a long standoff. The purpose of the attack was to collect information regarding India’s critical infrastructure or for sabotage in the future.
China has a long term strategy of using offensive cyber attacks against India. Chinese companies like Bytedance owned app Tik Tok and its telecom service provider China telecom have also been accused of conducting espionage on behalf of the Chinese state.
India’s Cyber capability according to IISS
In a report published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), India has made modest progress in developing its policy and doctrine for cyberspace security.
According to IISS,” India has a good regional cyber-intelligence reach but relies on partners, including the United States, for wider insight. The strengths of the Indian digital economy include a vibrant start-up culture and a very large talent pool.”
The think tank has assumed India’s offensive Cyber capability to be primarily focussed on Pakistan which is regionally effective. The think tank has put India in the category of third-tier cyber power, and has pointed India’s digital-industrial potential to be an asset in improving India’s cyber security capability.
Cyber attacks in India
In 2019 , a North Korean Malware named Dtrack attempted to hack the systems of ISRO.The attack came at a time when ISRO was launching its Chandrayaan 2 mission. The mission was not successful as it could not accomplish its objective fully.
On 12 October 2020, there was a major power outage in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. Five months later, the state cyber agency of Maharashtra found that the power outage occurred due to a cyber attack from China.
In 2021, a Singapore based cyber intelligence firm Cyfirma,reported that Chinese hackers targeted the systems of Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, two of India’s leading vaccine manufacturers. This was at a time when India was distributing vaccines across the world in its vaccine diplomacy.
In a reply to the questions on cyber attacks in India, Minister of state of Home Affairs ,Ajay Kumar Mishra informed the Lok Sabha that 394499, 1158208, 1402809 and 674021 cyber security incidents were observed during the year 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 (upto June), respectively
How cyber warfare can compromise India’s Nuclear assets
Nuclear infrastructure today is interconnected with cyber technologies. Hence the risk of them getting hacked or sabotaged has increased substantially. Any breach in securing the Nuclear assets can give the adversary direct control over the command, control and communication of India’s Nuclear arsenal.
During conflicts, an adversary could paralyse the nuclear assets of a country and nullify its nuclear deterrent. Hence, the cyber security mechanism of a country needs to be robust in view of the sensitive nature of the command and control system of nuclear weapons.
The digital India drive and the new tax collection mechanism GST has digitised many government services. This has increased their vulnerability to come under any cyber attack. Hence, India needs to strengthen its cyber defences as it is facing increased cyber attacks.
India should focus on building a dedicated Cyber security mechanism to counter the cyber threat, especially from China.