Post the strikes of September 2016, a number of Pakistani hacker groups had attacked and defaced Indian websites. Times of India put the figure at over 7000. The damage or disruption however, was minor as the websites were academic, State Government, or institutional and penetration limited. What was however of concern was the attack on BSNL and MTNL networks which carry most of India’s official traffic. The potential of manipulation and disruption and damage is thus, considerable. This is further compounded by the fact that a very large proportion of the hardware is of Chinese origin, with the possibility of trap doors and other vulnerabilities.

India issued a Cyber Security Policy in 2013 and a Cyber Security Coordination Officer has been appointed at the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). The much awaited National Cyber Security Coordination Center (NCSCC) is yet to be set up. A number of organizations such as Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), NIC, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI) are working with respect to cyber security and there is some coordination. However given the challenges, number of agencies involved, tendency to work in silos and lack of trust, the field is open for mischief. In addition are inadequate staff and poor manning standards. In this fast changing domain, India lags far behind. The question simply is: ‘Has a Cyber 26/11 been planned for?’

A ‘Framework for the US-India Cyber Relationship’ was signed on 30 August 2016. While terror is not specifically mentioned, the text covers protection of critical infrastructure and measures for national security. A similar agreement was signed with Russia during the BRICS Summit in October 2016. Though the document is not public, it allows government agencies to work together on counter terrorism. Terror is a universal concern. Cooperation with like-minded countries specially, those which are threatened must become a priority. Expertise of countries such as Israel can be sought for the Indian scenario. It may also be advisable to reach out to nations like Taiwan, who have not only been targeted, but also understand the Han psychology. International cooperation also generates confidence building and deterrence value, as also consensus for global norms and conventions to protect non-combatants and citizen services.

[ > Delhi Policy Group – March 1, 2017 ]