The Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta has called for leveraging Indian strengths in Information Technology in the building of Indian cyber warfare capabilities, pointing at the increasing threat perception of cyber attacks. “The annual Virtual Criminology Report of 2007, authored by McAfee, warned that international cyber espionage was set to be the biggest single threat to national security in 2008. It claimed that some 120 plus countries are already on the web espionage bandwagon. Primary targets include critical national infrastructure network systems with electricity, air traffic control, financial markets and Government computer networks taking center-stage,” he said.
The Admiral, who is also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee pointed out the progress other countries have made in this field, saying, “Reports suggest that the USA, Russia and China have acquired considerable capability in this domain.”
He pointed out that with growing networks, the armed forces needed to build their cyber-warfare capabilities. “The Indian Armed Forces are increasingly investing in networked operations, both singly and a joint fashion. We cannot, therefore, 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,” he said.
Referring specifically to China, the navy chief, also said, “China’s known propensity for ‘intervention in space’ and ‘cyber-warfare’ would also be major planning considerations in our strategic and operational thinking.” In terms of cyber capabilities, the Chinese were also recently alleged to have hacked into systems in the US and stolen data on the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter as well as having penetrated computer systems of various governments around the world, including an Indian embassy computer, and had especially been targeting systems for information on the Tibetan political movement. The US Pentagon as well as a UK intelligence assessment reported a clear cyber threat from China a few months back. The Indian Army too was reported to have conducted a war game called Divine Matrix which speculated on a possible Sino-Indian conflict over the next decade that would be especially marked by the use of extensive cyber-attacks.