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Threat to India's Cyber Security by Pakistan
Jun 03, 2014

Reports of Pakistani spies seeking to infiltrate India's communication networks and gather sensitive data from unsuspecting officers must to serve as strong reminder to our policymakers on the importance of shoring up the country's cyber security facilities. This initiative will, of course, have a strong technological aspect but equally importantly, it must also have a human resource training component —because no matter how powerful a security system is installed to protect a house, it cannot be safe if the residents don't follow basic safety protocol and let intruders in through the front door.

As the current case of Pakistani agents ferreting out protected information from mid-level Government officers shows, it is important that the state make its officers aware of the risks that loom large and train them on how best to deal with such challenges. After all, this is not the first time that such reports have come to the fore. Last year, after the terror attack in Hyderabad, an agent of the Inter-Services Intelligence had allegedly broken into India's critical security network and spoken to an Army major for details on the movement of Black Cat commandoes to blast site. This had prompted the Union Ministry for Home Affairs to push the Department of Telecom to set up a technical committee to look into the matter but there has been limited follow-up since then. This is deeply troubling.

For far too long, non-conventional security threats such as these have been largely ignored as the defence establishment remains largely pre-occupied with more conventional physical threats such as 26/11-style terror attacks and cross-border infiltration. While the latter group, no doubt, is an area of concern, one cannot afford to ignore the former any longer, either. In fact, it does not take a stretch of imagination to see how can be used to facilitate another: For instance, a cyber attacks can easily be used to compromise national security systems and then launch a conventional military attack.

Of course, cyber attacks is a fairly broad term that includes an assortment of activities from illegally accessing email accounts of individuals to hacking Government websites to disabling entire communication networks that can cripple infrastructure services nationwide.

In fact, the Stuxnet virus that reportedly ruined one-fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges is hardly a preview of the kind of debilitating impact that a cyber attack can have. Against this backdrop, recent intelligence reports that Pakistani agents have been targeting not just India's military headquarters but also the country's rail, phone and banking systems hardly come as a surprise. One cannot even begin to account for the amount of damage that can be inflicted upon the nation if even one of these systems are brought down by enemy forces.


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