During my stint with the government, we established formal contact with a Western signals intelligence agency. In one of the highly ceremonial and limited interactions with our counterparts from that agency, my boss joked of recruiting a “young gun” who was spearheading cyber operations. That was me.
While I have always rated myself as a below-average hacker, I was indeed a test case for the government in inducting ‘specialists’ into the system via lateral entry (Don’t ask me how it went).
Despite what the media likes to believe, there are no watersheds in the history of cyber conflict. Offensive cyber operations simply don’t work that way. You don’t irreversibly leap over the Rubicon, but crisscross it a couple of times to derive reasonable threshold estimates of power projection.
Cyber operations — as the militarised, regimented form of hacking is often called — don’t manifest themselves as precision-guided munitions. They’re more like a game of probability.
So, the Indian National Defence University — along with HQ, Integrated Defence Staff (where the newly formed Defence Cyber Agency is located) — is conducting an international table-top cyber wargame. This is quite exciting. I was meant to execute one Red Land scenario, but won’t be able to participate due to other compulsions. I did send my recommendations. Here’s an excerpt:
With Facebook taking down pages linked to Pakistani cyber actors spreading disinformation in India ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it’s becoming increasingly clear that India has been late in spotting the danger: if there is a Pakistani inter-services directorate as lethal as the Inter Services Intelligence, it is, undoubtedly, the Inter-Services Public Relations.
In 2010, I led the first joint cyber operations with the Indian Air Force. Nine years too late, we have started talking about cyber jointness.
“Synergy in Joint Cyber Operations,” presented at an Indian National Defence University event, backed by the Integrated Defence Staff. The first time ever that jointness was discussed in the Indian context. Not very verbose for obvious reasons – I flagged politics and turf wars. Some shakeups are happening; the Defence Cyber Agency is up. Winds of change…