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:
Keeping in mind that a lot could get lost in translation from hacker-speak to general-speak, capability differential could become a self-defeating way to think about cyber. It’s fine to have a totally non-overlapping Venn diagram of cyber capabilites, vis-à-vis India & China. https://t.co/QnCeXWgv6K
Gen. Rawat also endorses the general misassumption of cyber: imagining operations from the conventional precept of “contact.” Both the adversary & you only battle with ambiguity & uncertainty. Non-contact warfare understands that to some extent https://t.co/Ie9ujouB0m
To me, the SolarWinds hack is remarkable because it (momentarily) managed to upend one kind of strategy with the other. A broader strategic calculus is palpable from the operational choices made in this intrusion — from the Concept of Operations which underpins it.
Ciaran Martin was the founder of the UK’s National Cyber Security Center and the former head of cyber operations at GCHQ. He gave a thought-provoking speech busting many myths around cyber power and cyber operations (text and video ).
I try to deconstruct it in 18 tweets. Click on the tweet to follow the thread:
1. Deconstructing @ciaranmartinoxf‘s speech from a cyber policy perspective in 18 tweets. Here, he alludes to the technical ambiguity which plagues policy work, i.e. reliance on effects-based frameworks. Operators only control effects to a certain degree for complex intrusions pic.twitter.com/HHUyIo07uI
The recent border clashes between India and China have led analysts, habituated to conventional warfare, to compare the relative strengths of the two adversaries in terms of the number of tanks, aircraft and other military paraphernalia.
It appears that Indian strategic discourse has yet again discounted cyber operations as an instrument of power projection, which could have offered a degree of flexibility when it comes to coercing, compelling and imposing costs on the contentious neighbour. This is unfortunate considering how much Indian think-tanks have glamourised the cyber domain.
I may (or may not) do a series of quick posts highlighting the strategic challenges encountered while investigating a cyberattack like Kudankulam. They would be filed under the ‘lessons-from-kudankulam‘ tag. Since our agencies were literally caught napping, this is a good primer for understanding what nation-state-level cyber capabilities entail:
Some dumbified excerpts from my dispatches to the government: