The equities of telco cyber exploitation: 5G and the Huawei ban – Observer Research Foundation

My article for the Observer Research Foundation: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/the-equities-of-telco-cyber-exploitation-5g-and-the-huawei-ban/

The Indian government has commenced the trials of 5G technology, but the Chinese company Huawei is notably absent from the list of approved vendors. The Indian strategic community is almost unanimously supportive of the decision, concerned about the emerging Chinese hegemony around 5G standards and architecture. Although think tanks and experts have delved into some of the technical intricacies of 5G, the commentary remains largely polemical and rooted in the complicated verbiage of Sino-Indian geopolitics.

It would be worthy to briefly deconstruct the nature of the threat posed by the telco networks, why they are deemed so critical when it comes to Indian national security imperatives, and the kind of exploits and vulnerabilities which cyber adversaries have used to subvert them. It may paint a slightly different picture and offer a more nuanced take on China’s forays into 5G.

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The SolarWinds hack pokes holes in Defend Forward – Observer Research Foundation

My article for the Observer Research Foundation: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/the-solarwinds-hack-pokes-holes-in-defend-forward/

In December 2020, the cybersecurity company FireEye discovered a cyber espionage campaign, compromising dozens of government and private organisations in the US.

Orchestrated by subverting the supply-chain of the popular IT administration software-maker SolarWinds, the operation showcased remarkable ingenuity and precise tradecraft at every step of the “kill chain” to skirt around the phenomenal counterintelligence capabilities of the US. They had no plans to outmatch the strategic cyber offensive might of the US, so the spies tactically blended-in with the environment, exploited “transitive trust” of the computers, and used deception to look like routine processes.

Yet, beyond all the technical details, it was the palpable strategic calculus which strikes at the heart of US cyber policy. The SolarWinds hack could potentially upset many of the US’ cyber statecraft initiatives—bolstering national cyber defence in the aftermath of the 2016 electoral interference—which took years to mature.

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General Rawat’s comment on the India-China “capability differential” in cyber operations

General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, made a sort of unusual confession that we may never be able to bridge India’s “capability differential” on cyber operations, when compared to China. And that we “may not be able to fully catch up.” More in this Twitter thread by a journalist.

My hot take on it in three tweets:

SolarWinds: Cyber strategists are back to the drawing board – Hindustan Times

My geo-strategic take on the SolarWinds hack, published by the Hindustan Times: https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/solarwinds-cyber-strategists-are-back-to-the-drawing-board/story-L5QunVMY7vRa04isQlT1QL.html.

The SolarWinds hack – a cyber espionage campaign compromising critical organisations of the United States (US) – has fundamentally disrupted the power dynamics of cyberspace.

It is not only a major setback to the cyber statecraft initiatives of the US which took years to mature, but also challenges the basic assumptions upon which the West’s strategy for cyber dominance rests.

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