Cyber Safety Cyber security

Top Cybersecurity Challenges for the Indian Armed Forces

Cyber Security in Defence and Intelligence is at the forefront of cyber-security risk, under constant attack and operating in inherently risky or hostile environments the defence and intelligence community is bracing itself for a new age war. As per a report, India has been the target of nearly 1,852 attacks every minute in 2019.

Easy access to the internet and cyber tools has made cyber attacks an easy hit for hackers. The fact that Cyber Warfare has no conventional or physical borders, and it is marked by anonymity, uncertainty, speed and lack of warning is the reason why it is all the more difficult to identify the enemy.


An overview of challenges India is facing

In terms of cyberspace, India’s two rivals, China and Pakistan, pose significant challenges, even though the cyber threat is all-encompassing and can come from any source, both state and non-state. Chinese hackers are known to have hacked into computer networks of Indian defence establishments such as the National Security Council Secretariat, 21 Mountain Artillery Brigade, and Air Force Station Delhi, among others, using social networking sites. It’s also been suggested that the main power grid failure in North India in July 2012, followed by Eastern parts of India, including Delhi, was the result of a cyber-attack by china. The threat from Pakistan is again serious, even though their technological prowess is less than China’s, their motivation levels against their “mortal enemy,” India, may be much stronger. In the past, Pakistani hacker groups such as Pakistan Hackers Club, G-force, and others have defaced Indian websites.


 The fast-changing pace of technology requires retraining periodically which is difficult to administrate. India needs to come up with new training methods which can enable on the job training without compromising on standards. The infrastructure for such training needs to be put in place. The other challenges faced by the defence forces include supply chain dependence on imports, particularly from China, targeted attacks (spear phishing) on machines, a lack of adequate structures, a lack of technical HR development in the country, a lack of confidence in hardware due to a lack of in-house chip manufacturing, and so on. 

What are Indian armed forces doing about Cybersecurity?

The joint doctrine of Indian armed forces, released in 2017 addresses the current realities of cyber threats. The Doctrine acknowledges modern warfare’s five domains: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. It places a strong focus on the creation of a Defence Cyber Agency that can conduct both offensive and defensive cyber warfare operations. With the cyber arena now recognised as a new domain of warfare, putting together an optimum force capable of protecting the nation from cyber-attacks in times of war while also ensuring the military’s network operations in times of peace necessitates careful consideration. The new domain of cybersecurity—enabled by high technology will offer unprecedented opportunities for enhanced communication and coordination among wings of the armed forces in all theatres of war.

On a final note…

To ensure that national security is not outsourced in the future, the student community must embrace cyberspace with zeal. We need to start teaching cybersecurity and awareness in schools and colleges through courses financed by the IT industry. The digital battlefield of the future will run in a challenging cyber environment. At the operational and tactical levels, disruptions and data and information loss will be felt. Inefficient cyber warfare capability and cybersecurity would lead to severe consequences to India’s defence forces and potentially ruin national security. A robust National Cyber Force Structure, with Cyber Command at the helm, will not only enable the Indian armed forces to prepare for cyber warfighting and win a Net-centric war, but it will also facilitate synergy with other national agencies/organizations that use cyberspace, ensuring holistic cybersecurity for national assets.

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