India and China, the so called Asiatic giants,two the oldest living civilization in the world and both are rising powers with fast-growing economies. They have similar civilizational, historical and socio-economic challenges. They are friendly, cooperative for over 2,000 years before their independence. They had trade and cultural exchanges which paved a way for good relations between both the states. Eventually, it facilitated in flourishing the silk route and spiritual interactions.
The present time is not good as it was in the past. Now, In the twenty first century India and China are engaged in a geopolitical power play or a situation in which both the states seeks for more power to respond to what they perceive as a growing power of a rival. Both India and china are undergoing a process of power accumulation with the ultimate aim of re-establishing themselves as a great power within the international system. In spite that conventional aggressive strategies would show the true ambitions of China. The China has adopted its Cyberwarfare strategy.
In this new era of cyberspace, the states have to change its existing strategies and approaches to tackle the awaiting threats from the hidden rival.
What is Cyberspace?
Defining or giving a proper, common acceptable meaning is a complex one. According to the US’s national cyber strategy, the definition of cyberspace is a composition of computers, devices, internet and fibre optics cable.
Cyberspace is a complex environment consisting of interactions between people, software and services supported by worldwide distributions of information and communication technology (ICT) devices and networks.
Cyberwarfare in a nutshell, when a country is overtly using its cyber means to attack another country.
Cyberwarfare strategy of China
China formulated its overarching cyber strategy which encompasses civil and military applications in the early 1990s while China’s investment in Cyberwarfare began in 1997 in large part to offset its conventional weakness against the United States and Russia, the country uses cyber operations to target its other rivals, that it focuses heavily on India is not surprising. The two are so-called enduring rivals, countries with a long history of militarized disputes that dates back to the 1962 Sino Indian conflict. In 2016, India entered Doklam territory in Bhutan stop the road construction project by PLA. Most recently, In the post Galwan attack ,Chinese hackers made over 40,000 cyber attacks within a week on vital infrastructures and sectors like banking, IT and etc.
The Chinese strategy is to strategically identify vulnerabilities and weak points in the networks of its targeted system and successfully carries out the advanced persistent attack through those vulnerable areas
Threats of China’s strategy to India
The cyber threat landscape of the country includes threats like data theft, malware, hacking, web defacements, identity thefts, online, financial frauds, email spoofing, social engineering scams, DOS and DDOS attacks, unauthorized access to the critical infrastructure of the country, online surveillance, digital espionage, cyber weapons like Stuxnet, Flame and Duqu,Cyberwarfare, cyber terrorism, etc. This unending list is proof of the kind of vulnerabilities that Indian networks face in the virtual domain which at times has the potential to create a huge chaos in the society and threaten the security and integrity of the nation.
According to a report submitted to national security Council Secretariat (NSCS), 35 per cent of Cyberattacks against the country were attributed to China. Even though, such attacks have not generated a catastrophic impact in terms of damaged infrastructure, knocked down power grids and any related casualties.
Role of CERT-In in providing cybersecurity
CERT-In was created by the government of India in 2014, under the ministry of electronics & information technology (MEITY). It is a technical body. The CERT-In has been doing an appreciable job, by strategically identifying all possible threats from malicious software in cyberspace, analysing the issue and issuing advisories and other solutions to the cyber attack without sticking to that. It also provides training to professionals including other countries in bilateral framework periodically issues statistics and reports on cyber warfare incidents. For instances,130,338 security incidents were handled by CERT-In in the year 2014.
India’s current cyber environment
The report submitted by CERT-In indicates a steep rise of cybersecurity incidents year after year. This trend of increase in the number of cybersecurity incidents year after year is a constant reminder of India’s vulnerable cyber environment.
India’s cyberinfrastructure ranging from critical information infrastructure to a small website is vulnerable and are persistently victimised through various cyberattacks at different levels by numerous internal as well as external preparedness.
In the evolution of cybersecurity institutions in India,2013 was an eye-opener for India’s giant leap towards its cyber strategy. The republic of India announced a forward-looking and comprehensive national cybersecurity policy for five years.
The Indian government created a post in the name of national cybersecurity coordinator(NCSC). The basic objective behind this post is to provide strategic guidance and advice to other departments to conduct strategic cyber dialogues with other neighbours and primarily to provide inputs to the national security advisor.
The national technical research organization (NTRO) has been given the responsibility for ensuring cybersecurity in the critical information sector.
Even though all these bodies conduct seminars, provides and also there is a spending or a visible lack of spending in cybersecurity R&D.
India’s strategic response
In the concept of Digital India. Most of the government functions are being performed on digital platforms. For instance, Many departments such as railways, aviation, banking, taxation, land records, defence, e-commerce, etc have been functioning in a digital arena. Moreover, the vital information of the state and its people are also digitalized. For instance, Aadhar card and other e details.To secure this digital India, the country has made some appreciable works in protecting the informations.
India has also brought out its National cyber security policy, and other establishment to provide a robust security. Signed and conducts joint exercises. India has also made some cyber counter measures to the perceived cyber attacks.
Even though ,the absence of a credible security industry is a major lacuna in India’s quest for cybersecurity. India's response to incoming cyber attacks from China is surprising. In a nutshell, It is disjointed and lethargic.
The future of India’s Cyberwarfare strategy
The role of the NCSC will be more important in the years to come. This is a new institution which will take time to evolve. The country by 2020 should draft a robust national cyber security strategy. For this the existing national security strategy should paradigmly shift to a newer approach and the cyber laws should be revised periodically.
There are a lot of ways for a joint cyber operations. It is evident from the fair numbers of cybersecurity dialogues with many countries and has signed two landmark cybersecurity dialogues with the US and Russia.
The emerging new trends in Cybersecurity will change the way we approach the subject. In future, a new threat of intelligent malware is on the horizon, such malware will be able to behave autonomously like a human attacker. It would be able to accurately predict the situation and act according to it. We need to rely on or emphasize on machine learning and A.I to fight intelligent malware.
India is in a sharp need of a multi-prolonged approach which entails of new institutions, large investments in research, development and innovation. Strategically, India needs to revise its cybersecurity strategy and make it more ambitious in keeping with emerging trends. The Indian armed forces should set up a cyber command to ensure the security of its state
This is the right time the country has left with no other option than proving her cyber powers to the whole world, especially to China, which has been continously underminig India.
(Note: The views expressed in this article are solely the author's. It does not reflect our stand on it. )