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FIFTH DIMENSION OF WARFARE IS INDIA PREPARED?
In 2020 December Mumbai witnessed a massive power grid break down and the city came to a grinding halt. The experts said that this could have been a result of a Chinese cyber campaign against India.
The world powers that be, believed that it was timed as a ‘show of force’ warning to New Delhi about what could happen if Indian leadership pushed its border claims beyond a limit in the context of the standoff on LAC.
In fact, a report compiled by ‘Recorded Future’, a US based organization, held a Chinese cyber activity group Red Echo responsible for targeting the Indian power sector through a malware. It was just a teaser of what China can do.
This is what the fifth dimension is about. It indeed is the newest theater of warfare joining land, sea, air and space. But unlike the other domains, the conflicts in cyber war are rarely military-on-military.
Instead, nation-states, criminal organizations and terrorist groups are all going after civilian population, basic infrastructure of a country and govt institutions to crippling, slowing down or destroying enemy country.
Actually, analysis of the cyber threats are wide ranging than we realize. It ingulfs issues such as cyber maneuver through advanced battlespace (including the use of robots and remote sensors), information warfare, advanced non-lethal weapons, chaos theory applications, environmental warfare, cyber shielding, the critical electromagnetic infrastructure of the battlefield and command and control networks.
My aim here is to bring to light a rare behind-the-scenes look at the cyber war and cyber defense capabilities being developed by our adversaries and India’s own developments in this field within the larger context of emerging threats in battle space.
The world woke up to this most dangerous aspect of warfare in 2010 when the ‘Stuxnet’ worm was discovered in an Iranian computer.
This new malware surprised Computer experts for its sophistication and the use of four-day delay exploits. It was later found that the malware was designed to sabotage centrifuges in the power facilities of Iran’s nuclear installations.
The cyber-attack on Iran laid the foundation of future war scenario in which web-based weapons could be integrated into conventional armouries to achieve the perfect fifth dimension of warfare.
Coming closer to recent times, two more such attacks can be counted. In 2013, according to a detailed research published by Kaspersky a malware platform that targeted diplomatic, government, and scientific research computer networks across Eastern and Western Europe and North America was unearthed.
It identified a group called “Red October” responsible for the attack. Within two years, in 2015 hackers attacked a western Ukrainian energy control center and two other distribution centers.
The technical parameters associated with these operations narrated the capabilities of hacking groups and the vulnerabilities that come along with digital integration.
The policies of China in creating bench strength of hackers was evident in 2020 edition of Tianfu Cup that saw youngsters using new exploits to hack into the world’s popular software platforms /services like OS 14 running on an iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20, Windows 10 v2004 (April 2020 edition), Ubuntu, Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Adobe within 5 minutes time frame. Noticeably, China has ramped up investment of billions of dollars into cyberwarfare and cybersecurity since 1998, but India has lagged behind severely.
While china, our main adversary leads the world in fifth dimension, our media reports indicate that India’s National Security Council is now mulling over a proposal on the institutionalization of this newer dimension of warfare to gain tactical and strategic superiority in the region by leveraging this potent form of asymmetric conflict.
In my opinion, what India needs is an approach that makes possible the feat of entering the opponent’s decision making loop via the imaginative use of information technology.
New Delhi should conceptually presuppose possibilities to develop counter offensive to mold and direct enemy’s motives and actions to suit its strategic interests.
There is a need for us to realize that Digital networks are only as strong as their weakest links and therefore, formal education syllabi at institutions requires a revisit.
Not only that, the govt has to make right policies and invest money in developing strong well secured systems capable of defending itself against foreign or inland cyber assaults.
If India has to be a power in the region, it has to have a futuristic vision of entailing adequate manpower to take on offensive capabilities of the fifth dimensional warfare to its foes.
(Defence expert, Motivational speaker & Corporate Trainer)
The views expressed by the author are personaL