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…
Cyber analysts like me have been this envisioning this scenario since a decade: how the South Asian flashpoint would manifest itself in the cyber-enabled information battlespace.
If there’s one inter-services directorate that is as lethal as the Inter-Services Intelligence, it’s the Inter-Services Public Relations. I know, I know — most of you would balk at my comparison. Hear me out: