So, a journalist emailed me asking for my opinion of the Observer Research Foundation’s (ORF) cyber policy work. It’s a Reliance-funded organisation and thought to be India’s most prominent think tank. It also hosts the annual Raisina Dialogue on foreign policy with the Indian government, and the CyFy conference on technology and the cyber issues. My reply is pasted below:
TL;DR – Part I: The largest known foreign disinformation network targeting India. Iranian in origin, possibly operated via a front in Pakistan. May have physical presence in India. Garnered hundreds of thousands of social media impressions. Legitimised by the top leaders of mainstream political parties in the opposition.
Edit, December 3rd, 2018: My opinion piece for The Tribune, briefly mentioning this investigation of the Iranian disinformation network targeting India. These articles are my regular outreach and appeal to the public.
Edit, February 15th, 2019: Read the Part II: Ayatollah Khomeini’s ‘soft war’ hits the Indian hinterland. I attribute the influence operation to an arm of the Iranian state and flag a few persons of interest.
TL;DR – Part II: In Part II, I will arrive at certain definitive conclusions on the actors’ intent as well as directly attribute parts of the operation to a soft war/propaganda arm of the Iranian government. This is not an attempt at domestic sabotage but a desperate bid to propagate a counter-narrative — as Iran feels suffocated by the Western media’s discourse, portraying it in a uni-dimensional way.
Most of the media coverage around the sustained Russian disinformation campaign against the US and Ukraine portrays post-Soviet Kremlin as some rogue aggressor devoid of ideology or belief. As the perfect villain, its purported aim is to foment chaos and merely revel in it.
If there is any allusion to strategy — some method in Russian madness — then it is limited to the exponents of tactical hybrid warfare like Gen. Valery Gerasimov, not going any deeper.
But if there is one cliche that fully applies to cyber-enabled information warfare, it is that we are witnessing the veritable clash of civilisations in its most primitive form — whose seeds were sown in the computing architecture that predated the internet. It’s a cliche we love to hate — because of Samuel P. Huntington’s appropriation by the American neoconservative thought. Continue reading “Cyber power & the Huntington-ian cliche we love to hate”
The US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) seems to be adapting and responding to the Russian disinformation threat in some bizarre ways.
Here’s the developing story:
— Ars Technica (@arstechnica) October 23, 2018
#USCYBERCOM Cyber National Mission Force has kicked off an initiative to upload malware samples it discovers to @virustotal. #CNMF is proud to help prevent harm by malicious cyber actors by sharing with the global cybersecurity community. https://t.co/4v4KtDx8z1
— USCYBERCOM Malware Alert (@CNMF_VirusAlert) November 5, 2018
My opening statement at IPAG-IDSA’s Digital Age & Cyber Space: Maximizing Benefits, Minimizing Risks, Unleashing Creativity, August 28-29, 2018.
26th November, 2018: My ominous prophecy turned out to be true. But I could have never imagined Iran meddling like this. Read, Planet-scale influence operation strikes at the heart of polarised Indian polity.
Please challenge this hypothesis. I would like to be rebutted and told that this is just the work of my grandiose imagination.
India has been a hotbed of disinformation since the Cold War. Former R&AW chief Vikram Sood chronicles its history in his new book The Unending Game. He narrates how the KGB had “ten Indian newspapers and one news agency on their payroll and thousands of articles were planted.”
Legendary black ops specialist Bahukutumbi Raman had also recorded the scale of Soviet subversion, assessing the information gleamed from the Mitrokhin Archive.
My second op-ed on privacy, published in the August 20 issue of The Tribune. Original title: Digital Privacy and the Illusion of Choice. Link.
Unknown to many, the draft Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) and its harbinger the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are a crucial departure from how states have guaranteed privacy to their subjects. They mark a silent defeat against the pervasiveness of sensors that intrude our public and private lives, shifting the onus of accountability from the agents that produce to the agencies that consume.