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India is at war, but doesn't seem to know it!

Last updated on: March 20, 2013 13:34 IST

India is at war, but doesn't seem to know it!

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The Indian government has never bothered to formulate a coherent national policy on cyber war, reports Vicky Nanjappa

India may be inching towards a more prominent position in the global order, but the county's ascent also makes it a major target for a cyber attacks, according to a report by the Intelligence Bureau.

The recent hacking incident at the high-profile Defence Research and Development Organisation was not a mere prank by a juvenile hacker but part of a full-fledged cyber war, warns the IB report.

According to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's handbook on Co-operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a cyber attack is "reasonably expected to cause injury or death to persons or damage or destruction to objects".

The handbook says governments must "avoid attacks on civilians, hospitals, nuclear power stations and dams". It also provides for States to respond with conventional force if a cyber attack results in death or significant damage to property.

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The manual of the CCDCOE, which was established in 2008, has been described by NATO as an important document in the law of cyber warfare. It includes clearly laid out international laws on how to deal with cyber warfare.
 
Pavan Duggal, an expert on cyber laws, says that the attempt to hack DRDO files meant nothing less than a cyber war. Critical information was transmitted and specific information was  compromised during the attack.

Incidentally, our archaic Information Technology Law does not even mention the possibility of a cyber war.

The Intelligence Bureau report points out that India and other nations, which are napping over the issue, have to wake up to the serious dangers posed by cyber warfare. An international treaty on how to combat this new form of war is the need of the hour.

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Duggal points out that the devastating impact of cyber war can be witnessed in Estonia, where a systematic cyber warfare, allegedly launched by Russia, shut down the country's economy for nearly a week.

If India becomes the target of a similar cyber attack, it can be weeks before the authorities are able to assess the damage and repair it.

The Indian government has never bothered to formulate a coherent national policy on cyber war which outlines what each stake holder has to do in case of such a disastrous event. India lacks all aspects of cyber war planning, including recruiting a group of hackers who can fend off such an attack.

China is considered to be the biggest threat in terms of cyber warfare against India, warn experts.

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Since the last one-and-a-half years, State-sponsored Chinese hackers have launched an attack on Indian software systems. Investigations have revealed that the attacks are methodical and the hackers are mapping official networks.

It was found that the Chinese used BOTS and key loggers, which are embedded parasites, to target our systems. Chinese hackers are suspected to have targeted the National Informatics Centre, the ministry of external affairs and the National Security Council.

The attack on DRDO may be the latest in Beijing's cyber warfare.

Indian authorities could learn a lesson or two -- on how to handle this systematic but silent attack -- from the CCDCOE's extensive handbook on the subject.

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