India has the second largest number of Internet/ smartphone users in the world. Some nations have indulged in attempting to attack the national digital infrastructure. The armed forces also use a variety of cyber and internet services for Intelligence, Surveillance and Response systems which depend upon the cyberspace, satellites and networks.  These need to be secured from attacks by belligerent nations as such cyber-attacks can have a disproportionate impact on nation security.

Cyberwarfare refers to the use of digital attacks — like computer viruses and hacking — by one country to disrupt the vital computer systems of another, with the aim of creating damage, death and destruction.  Like other forms of warfare, cyberwarfare in its purest sense is defined as a conflict between states and not individuals. It excludes attacks that are regularly and incorrectly described as cyberwarfare launched by individual hackers for monetary benefit – such as ransomware – unless they are being aided and directed by a state.

Future wars will see armed forces personnel using computer code to attack an enemy’s command and communication systems, logistic infrastructure, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems, air and missile defence radars and even spoof targets where none exist. Fighting in cohort and coordination with combat troops using kinetic defence and offence weapons, would be other state trained civilian cyber warriors who will launch digital attacks to disrupt the belligerent’s national power grid, derail rail, road, air and ship transportation, banks and stock markets and using social media create a devastating attack on national morale. This combined onslaught of kinetic and digital attacks on the states machinery and apparatus of war is a force multiplier of unparalleled character.

Though the laws of armed conflict of necessity and reciprocity are well defined there are plenty of blurred lines in the conduct of cyber war. Unlike munitions delivering kinetic attacks computers launching digital attacks are not so easily traceable and even more difficult to attribute to the belligerent state as these may be launched from cyberspace which does not have a well-defined territory or nationality and can be plausibly denied as a third party non-state actor’s deliberate act of mischief. To qualify as cyberwar attacks, need to pass the litmus test of :-

  1. Objective of the attack
  2. Scale, severity and size of the attack – at the tactical operational and strategic level
  3. Type of Targets attacked
  4. Cyber weapons used in the attack
  5. Ownership by the belligerent state either to signal commencement of a pre-operations phase of low intensity warfare leading on to the possibility of full scale warfare.

Cyber-attacks on military targets on the Internet have evolved from simple hacking of military websites, disabling or destroying them, to even taking control of weapons and infrastructure. This shadowy world of hackers armed with top secret Weapons Of Digital Destruction (WODD) makes cyberwarfare a force multiplier across the spectrum of international conflicts.  Hence, the need for cyber defence and cyber-attack capabilities as a composite force for national security. However, the science and art of cyberwarfare is still evolving and it is to be seen how the abiding principles of war are tested in this new form of warfare.

A workshop on discussing the concepts and contours for waging cyber war in offence and defence operations is being organized to appreciate the issues involved and propose a way forward. The workshop is designed for participation by senior and mid-level officers of the Armed Forces, Security Personnel, Solution Providers.

The Chief Guest is Lt General Rajesh Pant, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, PhD (Retd). The special invitee is RAdm Mohit Gupta, DG Defence Cyber Agency. The list of speakers is a mix of academia, industry, diplomacy, politics and users – who are all stakeholders in this cause. We believe that such a comprehensive cohort will be addressing this vital subject for the first time in India and there should be a great learning experience for our officers.


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