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New War Ground between India and Pakistan : Cyber Warfare

After sea, land and air warfare, traditional arch rivals India and
Pakistan are now facing each other in another arena. With the help of
Israelis, Indians have launched another war on a new axis against
Pakistan – Cyber Warfare.

In certain aspects, Cyber warfare is complex, more penetrating and
detrimental to the national security than conventional warfare. It is
fought on the cyberspace using weapons like Cyber espionage, web
vandalism, gathering data, Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks (DDOS),
equipment disruption, attacking critical infrastructure, compromised
counterfeit hardware, virus and worm release. Potential targets
include;

1) Emergency services
2) Financial markets and bank systems
3) Power grids Water and fuel pipelines
4) Strategic Weapons systems Communication networks (Military / Civil)
5) Industrial and Engineering Complexes
6) E-Government services (internet based utility services, web servers)

The Internet security company McAfee stated in their 2007 annual report
that approximately 120 countries have been developing ways to use the
Internet as a weapon and target financial markets, government computer
systems and utilities.

Global Cyber Wars

China and US are spearheading cyber war at global level with dozens of
cyber attacks on each other’s critical IT infrastructure. Both countries
are spending millions every year in order to fight against cyber
attacks.

Lethality of cyber warfare become palpable by the fact that till April
2009, Pentagon had spent more than 100 million dollars in just 6 months
to fight against cyber attacks on its different systems. Money spent on
propaganda operations are apart from this. In October 2010, US army
created its first ever US army Cyber Command headed by a 3 star General.

From Pakistan’s perspective, unlike any other conventional threat, cyber
warfare is rather a new battle field. Pakistan is not geared nor
prepared to respond to this latest threat. India has all the reasons and
resources to use this as a weapon against Pakistan. Recently Israel has
joined hands with India raising this threat level significantly to be
ignored any longer.

Cyber espionage, web vandalism and information gathering are the known
cyber weapons and tools to be used against a security establishment and
government. Apart from these cyber threats, the cyber world has been
also used ruthlessly for the propaganda warfare. As per various media
reports one can be sure that Indians and Israelis are taking these known
cyber threats to its next level by using money, talent and technology
to defame Pakistan and its nuclear program.

How eagerly the Indians want to gain an edge in cyber warfare technology
is evident from what the Indian Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta told
to Start Post;

“The Indian Armed Forces are increasingly investing in networked
operations, both singly and in a joint fashion. We cannot afford to be
vulnerable to cyber attacks. Information Technology is our country’s
known strength and it would be in our interest to leverage this strength
in developing a formidable ‘offensive’ and ‘defensive’ cyber warfare
capability. Harnessing the gene pool available in academia, private
industry and the younger generation of talented individuals is
imperative,”

Statement of the Indian Naval Chief is an endorsement to the media
reports that India has offensive cyber warfare plans. Pakistan is the
natural target though Indian military establishment and political
leadership used Chinese threat as an excuse for introducing this new war
theatre in the region.

Indian Endeavour:

In August 2010 the Indian government decided to recruit and form cyber
army of software professionals to spy on the classified data of hostile
nations (read Pakistan and China) by hacking into their computer
systems.

A strategy was drafted for this purpose earlier in a high level security
meeting on July 29, 2010, chaired by Indian National Security Advisor
Shiv Shankar Menon and attended by the director of Indian Intelligence
Bureau (IB) as well as the senior officials of the telecom department,
IT ministry and RAW.

According to the strategy drafted in the meeting, India will recruit IT
professionals and hackers who will be assigned to be on the offensive or
to launch pre-emptive strikes by breaching the security walls of
enemy’s computer systems. The most important factor to note is the
involvement of the Indian National Technical Research Organization
(NTRO) along with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) who will be
responsible for creating these cyber-offensive capabilities. It is to be
noted that NTRO is a key government agency of India that gathers
technical intelligence while DIA is tasked with collating inputs from
the Navy, Army and the Air Force.

The Indian Army conducted a war game called the Divine Matrix in March
2009. The most interesting aspect of this exercise was that Indian
Military simulated a scenario in which China launches a nuclear attack
on India somewhere in 2017. The purpose of the exercise was to describe
how China will launch a cyber attack on India before the launch of the
actual nuclear strike.

Chinese were not amused by this Indian war gaming and simulation. Their
Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Qin Gang expressed his views on the Indian
cyber warfare exercise. “We are surprised by the report. Leaders of
China and India had already reached at consensus that the two countries
will not pose a threat to each other but rather treat each other as
partners.”

However, recently the Indian Army chief and the ex-chief have clearly
threatened that there can be a nuclear war in the region (a veiled
threat to both Pakistan and China).

Indo-Israeli Cyber nexus against Pakistan:

Though no large scale cyber attack has been reported as yet in Pakistan,
yet a number of limited cyber skirmishes have already taken place
between the Indian and Pakistani hackers in the recent years. In 2008 a
group of Indian hackers defaced a Pakistani website of the Ministry of
Oil and Gas. In a quick and effective retaliation Pakistani hackers
attacked and defaced many Indian websites. This year too, many websites
were defaced by the hackers on both sides.

This is where the interests of both India and Israel converged.
According to reports, Israel has recently established a Cyber Task Force
for Cyber Warfare against Islam and Pakistan, besides harming the
Palestinian cause. A 15 million dollar budget has been allocated to this
force to carry out various digital espionage and information gathering
operations against Islam and Pakistan.

Propaganda Warfare and Cyber Space

In a new development, Israel has also setup a huge workforce of writers
on the internet and is still increasing its strength. Primary task of
this force would also be to wage propaganda war against Pakistan and its
nuclear weapons and armed forces. Israelis are waging a net based
disinformation and psychological war against Pakistan for quite some
time now. Hebrew websites and magazines have been targeting Pakistan by
orchestrating near to impossible scenarios about vulnerability of
Pakistani nukes and the “possibility” of their falling into Al-Qaeda
hands. Israelnationalnews.com, IsraelNN.com, and Arutz-7’s Hebrew
newsmagazine are a few to name among these media outfits where Israelis
are spiting and spewing venom against Pakistan.

Israeli government first tested these cyber propaganda tools during
operation Cast Lead (brutal military operation in Gaza in 2008) when
bloggers, surfers and writers were asked by the ministry of foreign
affairs of Israel, through GIYUS
(Give Israel You United Support), to promote words like “holocaust”,
“promised land” and “murder of Jews” on social networking and blogging
websites like Face Book, Twitter, MySpace, BlogSpot, wordpress etc.
Israeli government went to the extent of giving written messages to be
posted on the aforementioned websites as if they were the personal
responses or views of the citizens of other countries.

Israeli lobbies have been heavily exploiting their clouts in US and UK
to wage propaganda war against Pakistan’s nuclear program through
satellite news channels (like BBC, FOX, SkyNews) and news papers (New
York Time, Washington Post, etc.). Disinformation campaign was also
launched from US and Western media when operation Rah-e-Rast was
initiated in Swat and Malakand regions. Taliban threat was so
exaggerated that a perception was created as if Islamabad was about to
fall to the Taliban! Indian government also took active part in this
campaign. Indian Prime Minister took this disinformation war to new
heights by saying that some of the Pakistani nuclear installations were
already under Taliban control!

Israeli cyber operations were resolutely and admirably countered by the
young Palestinian bloggers by posting thousands of pictures and footages
of Israeli brutalities in GAZA over the internet.

Final Thoughts:

In Pakistan, as compared to the adequate measures being taken for the
upkeep of the conventional forces and the safety and security of the
strategic assets, it is alarming to see the absence of any serious
threat perception in the theatre of cyber warfare. The government as
well as the armed forces seem to have neglected this threat for too long
now and are not prepared to readily respond to this new challenge.
Pakistan cannot afford any more complacency in this regard and better
take immediate steps to respond to this lurking threat on literal war
footings.

It would need absolute coordination, planning or understanding within
various civil and military organizations and intelligence agencies
responsible for the Cyber Warfare and perception management through
propaganda wars in the cyber space. The whole existing system and
organizations are to be revamped and some restructured to deliver
effectively in these times of great crisis and threats in this arena.
Reliance on the old fashioned methods of collecting and collating
information and processing have to be updated. This should be clearly
understood that in the modern world only those nations would have the
advantage on the battle field, in both conventional and unconventional
wars, which have fought and won the war in the cyber world first. The
entire military equation in a war can be changed dramatically without
even firing a shot, by controlling the critical infrastructure and
perception of the target population through propaganda war in the cyber
world.

Weapons like E-bombs have emerged as a new threat to cripple the
military communication infrastructure by producing massive
electromagnetic pulse. Pakistan must start work on Transient Electro
Magnetic Pulse Emanations Standards, known as TEMPEST in military
parlance to counter electromagnetic-pulse bombs that can interrupt
wireless signals.

Pakistan has already faced interception of its vital secrete data on
military operations in FATA by India through its assets in the area. It
is, therefore, a must that we should work on TEMPEST and harden it to a
degree of zero chances of interception of data transferred by defence
agencies.

Pakistan needs urgently to create a centralized, aggressive and
pro-active Command for Cyber and Information warfare under the Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The unguarded flank of Pakistan defence
must be secured at the soonest.

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