6 Feb, 2012, 10.58AM IST, Rajat Pandit,TNN
MUNICH: After the first four “real” battlefields of land, air, sea and now increasingly space, India needs to get very serious about the virtual front as well. The country should begin planning a full-fledged military cyber command, instead of the current piecemeal and disjointed steps to bolster cyber-security, grappling as it already is with incessant online espionage and other attacks from China, Pakistan and others.
Experts said the emergence of “cyber-weapons” like the Stuxnet software ‘worm’ that was used to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme over a year ago, had changed the entire security ballgame, almost on par with the use of nuclear bombs for the first time in 1945.
“Someone used a cyber-weapon in peacetime to physically destroy what the nation (Iran) would describe as its critical infrastructure. It was a new class of weapon that caused a thousand centrifuges in Iran to self-destruct,” said General (retd) Michael V Hayden, former director of the American CIA and National Security Agency.
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt expressed fear that the risk of terrorists or others getting hold of cyber-weapons was possibly much higher than nuclear weapons. “Stealing and using Stuxnet might be more easy and dangerous than nuclear weapons,” he said.
Russian cyber expert Eugene Kaspersky, in turn, warned developed countries would be the “main victims” of cyber-warfare since they were the most inter-connected in terms of information technology.
Well-executed cyber-attacks, after all, can cripple a nation’s military assets and strategic networks, energy grids and banking, communication and “infostructure”. Moreover, unlike missiles or nuclear bombs, which can be traced back to an adversary for retaliatory strikes, here the enemy remains largely unknown.
Stuxnet is a case in point. Though a few fingers were pointed at Israel, as also the US, the exact origin of the ‘worm’ still remains unknown. But it’s clear it was the handiwork of a resource-rich state agency, not some non-state hackers or fringe elements.
So, it’s no wonder several countries like the US and the UK have set up cyber military forces to thwart deadly attacks that can come from anywhere, at any time. The US, for instance, has created a Cyber Command, under a four-star general, tasked with launching a “full spectrum” war in the boundary-less cyberspace, when directed to do so, apart from protecting the around 15,000 American military networks from attacks round-the-clock.
India has reason to worry. China-watchers in the Indian security establishment say Beijing already has two to three “hacker brigades” and 30,000 computer professionals in its militia. China, in fact, has made cyber-warfare one of its topmost military priorities, with its hackers regularly breaking into sensitive computer networks of countries like the US, the UK, Germany and India.
China-based online espionage gangs have been regularly accessing classified documents from several Indian security and diplomatic establishments, as was also brought out in the “Shadows in the Cloud” report by a group of Canadian and American cyber-security researchers a couple of years ago. India, therefore, has to be on the guard in the virtual world as well.
- East and West clash on cyber cold war (canada.com)
- Welcome to the Cyberwar Front (beta.fool.com)
- USA and cyber-warfare; yes or no? (pikapvs.wordpress.com)
- Will There Be A ‘Cyber Cold War’? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Israel, Finland and Sweden Top Cyber Readiness Poll, China at the Bottom (devicemag.com)
- US Congress Goes Offensive on Cyber Warfare, Authorizes “Military Activities in Cyberspace” (techie-buzz.com)
- Inside Cyber Warfare (shop.oreilly.com)
- How the world’s first cyber ‘super weapon’ attacked Iran – and now threatens the world (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- US launched cyber attacks on other nations (rt.com)
- Researchers warn of new Stuxnet (bbc.co.uk)