IAS Mains Topic on Cyber Security


Cyberspace: It is a complex environment consisting of interactions between people, software and services, supported by worldwide distribution of information and communication technology devices and networks.



Over the years, Information Technology has transformed the global economy and connected people and markets in ways beyond imagination. With the Information Technology gaining the centre stage, nations across the world are experimenting with innovative ideas for economic development and inclusive growth. An increasing proportion of the world’s population is migrating to cyberspace to communicate, enjoy, learn, and conduct commerce. It has also created new vulnerabilities and opportunities for disruption.

The cyber security threats emanate from a wide variety of sources and manifest themselves in disruptive activities that target individuals, businesses, national infrastructure and Governments alike. Their effects carry significant risk for public safety, security of nation and the stability of the globally linked economy as a whole. The origin of a disruption, the identity of the perpetrator or the motivation for it can be difficult to ascertain and the act can take place from virtually anywhere. These attributes facilitate the use of Information Technology for disruptive activities. As such, cyber security threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges.



Cyber Security is “the security of information and its communicating channels as applied to computing devices such as computers and smartphones, as well as computer networks such as private and public networks, including the Internet as a whole.”

The field covers all the processes and mechanisms by which computer-based equipment, information and services are protected from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction. Computer security also includes protection from unplanned events and natural disasters.

Cyber security is a complex issue that cuts across multiple domains and calls for multi-dimensional, multilayered initiatives and responses.

It has proved a challenge for governments all around the world. The task is made difficult by the inchoate and diffuse nature of the threats and the inability to frame an adequate response in the absence of tangible perpetrators. The rapidity in the development of information technology (IT) and the relative ease with which applications can be commercialized has seen the use of cyberspace expand dramatically in its brief existence. From its initial avatar as a N/W created by academics for the use of the military, it has now become a global communications platform for socio-economic issues as well as for commercial and social purposes.

The increasing centrality of cyberspace to human existence is exemplified by facts and figures brought out recently by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), according to which,

 The number of Internet users has doubled between 2005 and 2010 and surpasses 2 billion.

 Users are connecting through a range of devices from the personal computer (PC) to the mobile phone, and using the Internet for a variety of purposes from communication to e-commerce, to data storage for several services.

The rise in the Internet population has meant that while the threats and vulnerabilities inherent to the Internet and cyberspace might have remained more or less the same as before, the probability of disruption has grown apace with the rise in the number of users. While such disruptions are yet to cause permanent or grievous damage worldwide, they serve as a wake-up call to the authorities concerned to initiate measures to improve the security and stability of cyberspace in terms of their own security. Governments are constrained in their responses by pressures exerted by politico-military-national security actors at one end and economic-civil society actors at the other.


  1. The Indian Cyberspace

 The National Informatics Centre (NIC) was set up as early as 1975 with the goal of providing IT solutions to the government.

 Between 1986 and 1988, three N/Ws were set up:

  • INDONET, connecting the IBM mainframe installations that made up India’s computer infrastructure;
  • NICNET (the NIC Network), being a nationwide very small aperture terminal (VSAT) N/W for public sector organisations as well as to connect the central government with the state governments and district administrations;
  • The Education and Research Network (ERNET), to serve the academic and research communities.

 Policies such as the New Internet Policy of 1998 paved the way for multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) and saw the Internet user base grow from 1.4 million in 1999 to over 15 million by 2003.

Indian presence in Internet/Avenues of vulnerability in Cyber space / Indian stakes at risk in Cyber space

As per World Bank report

 By June2012,Internet users in India were approx. 12.5% of the total population (approx. 137 million).

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI),

 The internet user base in India is projected to touch 243 million by June 2014, with a year-on-year growth of 28%.

This exponential growth is again expected to continue in recent future with more and more people accessing the web through mobile phones and tablets, with the government making a determined push to increase broadband(>4mbps) penetration from its present level of about 6%.


National e-Governance Plan (NGeP)

Even though the Indian government was a late convert to computerization, there has been an increasing thrust on e-governance, seen as a cost-effective way of taking public services to the masses across the country.

Critical sectors such as Defence, Energy, Finance, Space, Telecommunications, Transport, Land Records, Public Essential Services and Utilities, Law Enforcement and Security all increasingly depend on N/Ws to relay data, for communication purposes and for commercial transactions.

The National e-governance Program (NeGP) is one of the most ambitious in the world and seeks to provide more than 1200 governmental services online. Schemes like ‘Rajiv Gandhi scheme for broadband to PRIs’ and National Optic Fiber Network (NOFN) missionare already dedicated to accelerate cyber connectivity in far reaching areas of country.

 Under The National Broadband Plan, the target for broadband is 160 million households by 2016. Despite the low numbers in relation to the population, Indians have been active users of the Internet across various segments.

 Similar level of penetration have also been seen in the social networking arena, which is the most recent entrant to the cyber platform.India currently has the fastest growing user base for Facebook and Twitter, the two top social networking sites.


Contribution of e-commerce to Economy

In terms of contribution to the economy,

– Thetwo top email providers, Gmail and Yahoo, had over 34 million users registered from India.

– 62% of Internet users in India use Gmail.

– India’s average connection speed is 1.3 mbps (Nov 2013), the lowest among Asian countries. Compare that to China’s 8.3 mbps and South Korea’s 14.2 mbps.

– Only 2.4% of India’s Internet connections have speeds >4 Mbps and barely 0.3% have 10 mbps or higher.

The number of Internet users in India increased from 1.4 million in 1998 to 100 million in 2010. Internet penetration during this period rose from 0.1% to 8.5%.

 The contribution of the IT-ITES (BPO) industry to GDP increased from 5.2% in FY06 to around 8.0% in FY13.

 The ICT sector has grown at an annual compounded rate of 33% over the last decade.

 An indication of the rapid pace of adaptation to the Internet in India is that Indian Railways, India’s top e-commerce retailer, saw its online sales go up from 19 million tickets in 2008 to 44 million in 2009, with a value of Rs. 3800 crore ($875 million).

 The size of India’s e-commerce market in 2013 was around $13 billion, according to a joint report of KPMG and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

 As per the same report, the e-commerce business in India is expected to reach around $50-70 billion by 2020 on the back of a fast growing internet-connected population and improvement in related infrastructure like payment and delivery systems.

 Currently estimated at $2.3 billion (about Rs 13,800 crores), Online Retailing is expected to gallop to almost $38 billion (Rs 2.27 lakh crores) in the next five years.

As India progresses, its reliance on the Internet will increase at a rapid pace. Globalization and governance require a wired society. Along with this India’s vulnerability to the threat of Information War (IW) will become greater. This danger must be foreseen and planned for.


  1. Cyberthreats

As we grow more dependent on the Internet for our daily activities, we also become more vulnerable to any disruptions caused in and through cyberspace. The rapidity with which this sector has grown has meant that governments and private companies are still trying to figure out both the scope and meaning of security in cyberspace and apportioning responsibility.

Cyber threats can be disaggregated, based on the perpetrators and their motives, into four baskets:

  1. Cyber Espionage,
  2. Cyber Crime
  3. Cyber Terrorism
  4. Cyber Warfare


Cyber Espionage:

Cyber espionage, is “the act or practice of obtaining secret information without the permission of the holder of the information (personal, sensitive, proprietary or of classified nature), from individuals, competitors, rivals, groups, governments and enemies for personal, economic, political or military advantage using methods on the Internet, networks or individual computers through the use of cracking techniques and malicious software including Trojan horses and spyware.”

Simply said, Cyber espionage is “The use of computer networks to gain illicit access to confidential information, typically that held by a government or other organization.”

Instances of cyber espionage are becoming quite common, with regular reports of thousands of megabytes of data and intellectual property worth millions being exfiltrated from the websites and N/Ws of both government and private enterprises. It may also be that theft of intellectual property from private enterprises is not an issue here because R&D expenditure in India is only 0.7% of GDP, with government expenditure accounting for 70% of that figure.Though more recently, Cyber spying involves analysis of public activity on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. While government websites and NWs in India have been breached, theprivate sector claims that it has not been similarly affected. Companies are also reluctant to disclose any attacks and exfiltration of data, both b ecause they could be held liable by their clients and also because they may suffer a resultant loss of confidence of the public. As far as infiltration of government N/Ws and computers is concerned, cyber espionage has all but made the Official Secrets Act, 1923 redundant, with even the computers in the Prime Minister’s Office being accessed, according to reports.

USA DoJ (Department of Justice) brings first-ever cyber-espionage case against Chinese officials in May 2014. Chinese officials have been charged with hacking into major U.S. companies to steal trade secrets in order to compete with US.

India : Victim of Chinese Cyber Espionage 1. Cyber attack by Chinese crackers at the computers in the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) was reported in 2009. 2. In August 2015, security firm FireEye revealed an intense activity of hackers based in China particularly interested in entities and organization linked to the Indian Government as well as in information on Tibetan activists. The cyber espionage group sent targeted spear-phishing e-mails to its intended victims, with Microsoft Word attachments containing information on regional diplomatic issues .It said that collecting intelligence on India remains a key strategic goal for China-based APT groups, and these attacks on India and its neighbouring countries reflect growing interest in its foreign affairs.

The multiplicity of malevolent actors, ranging from state-sponsored to ‘Hactivists’, makes attribution difficult; governments currently can only establish measures and protocols to ensure Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA) of data.

Lately, it has been suggested to go on the Offensive against cyber spies and cyber criminals who are often acting in tandem with each other. But Offence is not necessarily the best form of defence in thecase of cyber security as perpetrators has not much to lose as compared to their counterparts in government.


Cyber Crime/ Cyber Attacks:

Cyber-attack is “any type of offensive maneuver employed by individuals or whole organizations that targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks with an intention to damage or destroy targeted computer network or system.”

These attacks can be labeled either as Cyber-campaign, Cyber-warfare or Cyber-terrorism depending upon the context, scale and severity of attacks. Cyber-attacks can range from installing spyware on a PC to attempts to destroy the critical infrastructure of entire nations.

The increasing online population has proved a happy hunting ground for cyber criminals, with losses due to cyber-crime being in billions of dollars worldwide.

While other countries are reporting enormous losses to cyber-crime, as well as threats to enterprises and critical information infrastructure (CII), there are hardly any such reports coming out of India other than those relating to cyber espionage.

 Though the report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2010 reported an increase of 50% in cyber-crime over the previous year, the numbers were quite small in absolute terms.

 On 12 July 2012, a high profile cyber-attack breached the email accounts of about 12,000 people, including those of officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

 In February 2013, The Executive Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) stated that his company alone was forced to block up to ten targeted attacks a day.

Similarly, there are relatively few reports of Indian companies suffering cyber security breaches of the sort reported elsewhere .Industry bodies such as the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) also attribute this to the fact that they have been at the forefront of spreading information security awareness amongst their constituents, with initiatives such as the establishment of the Data Security Council of India (DSCI) and the National Skills Registry. The Indian government has also aided these initiatives in a variety of ways, including deputing a senior police officer to NASSCOM to work on cyber security issues, keeping the needs of the outsourcing industry in mind.

That said cyberspace is increasingly being used for various criminal activities and different types of cyber-crimes, causing huge financial losses to both businesses and individuals.

Organized crime mafia have been drawn to cyberspace, and this is being reflected in cyber-crimes gradually shifting from random attacks to direct (targeted) attacks. A cyber underground economy is flourishing, based on an ecosystem facilitated by exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities, attack tool kits and botnets . The vast amount of money lubricating this ecosystem is leading to increased sophistication of malicious codes such as worms and Trojans. The creation of sophisticated information-stealing malware is facilitated by toolkits such as ZueS, which are sold on Internet for a few thousands of dollars.

While large enterprises are ploughing more resources into digital security, it is the small enterprises and individuals that are falling prey to cyber-crime, as evinced by the increasing number of complaints on consumer complaint forums.

The low levels of computer security are also apparent in recurring statistics that show that India is the third-largest generator of spam worldwide, accounting for 35% of spam zombies and 11% of phishing hosts in the Asia-Pacific-Japan region.

A continuing trend for Internet users in India was that of the threat landscape being heavily infested with worms and viruses. The percentage of worms and viruses in India was significantly higher than the Asia-Pacific regional average.


Methods of Attacks

Most popular weapon in cyber terrorism is the use of computer viruses and worms. Yet these attacks can be classified into three different categories

  1. Physical Attack – using conventional methods like bombs, fire etc to harm the cyber infrastructure.
  2. Syntactic Attack – The computer infrastructure is damaged by modifying the logic of the system in order to introduce delay or make the system unpredictable. Computer viruses and Trojans are used in this type of attack.
  3. Semantic Attack – This is more treacherous as it exploits the confidence of the user in the system. During the attack the information keyed in the system during entering and exiting the system is modified without the user’s knowledge in order to induce errors.


Tools of Cyber Attacks

Cyber attackers use numerous vulnerabilities in cyberspace to commit these acts. They exploit the weaknesses in software and hardware design through the use of malware.

  1. Bluetooth hijacking – (also called “Bluejacking”) is an attack conducted on Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, such as cellular telephones, smart phones, and PDAs.
  2. Botnet- A botnet (a contraction of the term “RoBOTNETwork”) is a collection of Internet-connected programs communicating with other similar programs in order to perform tasks. E.g. distribute malware, spam, and phishing scams etc.
  3. Network of compromised computers that are remotely controlled by malicious agents. They are used to send massive quantities of spam e-mail messages, co-ordinate distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDOS).
  4. Browser hijacking – is the unintended modification of a web browser’s settings by a malware. The term “hijacking” is used as the changes are performed without the user’s permission. Some browser hijacking can be easily reversed, while other instances may be difficult to reverse. Various software packages exist to prevent such modification.
  5. Denials of service (DoS) – an attack that prevents or impairs the authorized use of information system resources or services.These attacks are used to overwhelm the targeted websites. Attacks are aimed at denying authorized person’s access to a computer or computer network.
  6. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) – is a variant of the denial-of-service attack that uses a coordinated attack from a distributed system of computers rather than a single source. It often makes use of worms to spread to multiple computers that can then attack the target.
  7. E-mail address harvesting – obtaining an electronic mail address using an automated means from an Internet website or proprietary online service operated by another person.
  8. E-Mail Related Crime – Usually worms and viruses have to attach themselves to a host programme to be injected. Certain emails are used as host by viruses and worms. E-mails are also used for spreading disinformation, threats and defamatory stuff.
  9. Cyber criminals are using innovative social engineering techniques through spam, phishing and social networking sites to steal sensitive user information to conduct various crimes, ranging from abuse to financial frauds to cyber espionage. E.g. Nigerian email asking bank account to transfer lots of money. Tempting emails of user winning lottery or in some luck draw have been few famous tricks.
  10. Exploit tools – publicly available and sophisticated tools that intruders of various skill levels can use to determine vulnerabilities and gain access into targeted systems.
  11. Hacking – The most popular method used by a terrorist. It is a generic term used for any kind of unauthorized access to a computer or a network of computers. Some ingredient technologies like packet sniffing tempest attack, password cracking and buffer outflow facilitates hacking, Identity theft.
  12. Logic bomb – a computer program, which may perform some useful function, but which contains hidden code which, when activated, may destroy data, reformat a hard disk or randomly insert garbage into data files.
  13. Identity theft – Obtaining and unlawfully possessing identity information of someone with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime.
  14. Keyboardlogging – is a software that captures and “logs” every keystroke typed on a particular keyboard.
  15. Macrovirus – is a program or code segment (can be called a Virus) written in the application’s internal macro language.
  16. Malware – (a concatenation of malicious software)a program that is inserted into a system, usually covertly, with the intent of compromising the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the victim’s data, applications, or operating system (OS) or of otherwise annoying or disrupting the victim.
  17. Pharming – is a method used by phishers to deceive users into believing that they are communicating with a legitimate Web site. Pharming uses a variety of technical methods to redirect a user to a fraudulent or spoofed Web site when the user types a legitimate Web address.
  18. Phishing – refers to a social engineering attack, where someone misrepresents their identity or authority in order to induce another person to provide personally identifiable information (PII) over the Internet.
  19. Root kit–is a set of tools used by an attacker after gaining root-level access to a host to conceal the attacker’s activities on the host and permit the attacker to maintain root-level access to the host through covert means.
  20. Skimming – is the act of obtaining data from an unknowing end user who is not willingly submitting the sample at that time. An example could be secretly reading data while in close proximity to a user on a bus.
  21. Smart-card hijacking
  22. Sniffer – (also called a packet sniffer) is asoftware tool for auditing and identifying network traffic packets.
  23. Spamming – unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) sent to numerous addressees or newsgroups.
  24. Spoofing – the ability to fool a biometric sensor into recognizing an illegitimate user as a legitimate user (verification) or into missing an identification of someone that is in the database.
  25. Spyware- technologies deployed without appropriate user consent and/or implemented in ways that send away the information about user activity without his/her acknowledgement.
  26. SQLinjection – is a way to cause database commands to be executed on a remote server. Such command execution can cause information leakage.
  27. Trojans – Programmes which pretend to do one thing while actually they are meant for doing something different, like the wooden Trojan Horse of the 12thCentury BC.
  28. Virus – A computer virus is the program code that attaches itself to application program and when application program run it runs along with it. It typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.
  29. War-dialing– is a recursive dialing of phone numbers from a modem-enabled PC in an attempt to locate other unadvertised modems resulting in unauthorized access into a computing or Process Control System domain.
  30. War-driving – is the recursive searching for wireless access points in an attempt to access a communication network resulting in unauthorized access into a computing or control system domain.
  31. Worms – is a code that replicates itself and consumes the resources of a system to bring it down.
  32. Zero-day exploit – is an attack against a software vulnerability that has not yet been addressed by the software maintainers. These attacks are difficult to defend against as they are often undisclosed by the vendor until a fix is available, leaving victims unaware of the exposure.

As per the Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report, 92% of cyber-attacks in the past 10 years can be linked to just nine basic attack patterns. Top threat patterns identified by the report

  1. Malware aimed at gaining control of systems
  2. Insider/privilege misuse
  3. Physical theft or loss
  4. Web app attacks
  5. Denial of service attacks
  6. Cyber espionage
  7. Point-of-sale intrusions
  8. Payment card skimmers
  9. Miscellaneous errors such as sending an email to the wrong person.

The scope and nature of threats and vulnerabilities is multiplying with every passing day.


Objectives of a cyber-attack

  1. Loss of data integrity, such that information could be modified improperly.
  2. Loss of data availability, where mission critical information systems are rendered unavailable to authorized users;
  3. Loss of data confidentiality, where critical information is disclosed to unauthorized users; and,
  4. Physical destruction, where information systems create actual physical harm through commands that cause deliberate malfunctions.


Benefits of Cyber-attacks

  1. They are easy to use with high degrees of anonymity and with plausible deniability, making them well suited for covert operations and for instigating conflict between other parties;
  2. They are more uncertain in the outcomes they produce, making it difficult to make estimates of deliberate and collateral damage; and
  3. They involve a much larger range of options and possible outcomes, and may operate on time scales ranging from tenths of a second to years and at spatial scales anywhere from “concentrated in a facility next door” to globally dispersed.


Cyber terrorism:

Acts of Terrorism related to cyber space and /or executed using Cyber technologies is popularly known as ‘cyber terrorism’.

Definitions of cyber terrorism

“Cyber terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyber space. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attacks against computers, networks, and information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives, Further, to qualify as cyber terrorism, an attack should result in violence against persons or property or at least cause enough harm to generate fear, Serious attacks against critical infrastructures could be acts of cyber terrorism depending upon their impact.”

This is one of the most comprehensive definitions of cyber terrorism. But even this has a limitation. It states that for an attack to qualify as a cyber-terrorism it should lead to violence. This is more conventional. Terrorist may direct an attack only to disrupt key services, If they create panic by attacking critical systems/infrastructure there is no need for it to lead to violence. In fact such attacks can be more dangerous.

In the last couple of decades India has carved a niche for itself in IT. Most of the Indian banking industry and financial institutions have embraced IT to its full optimization. Reports suggest that cyber-attacks are understandably directed toward economic and financial institutions. Given the increasing dependency of the Indian economic and financial institutions on IT, a cyber-attack against them might lead to an irreparable collapse of our economic structures. And the most frightening thought is the ineffectiveness of reciprocal arrangements or the absence of alternatives.

Cyberspace has been used as a conduit by terrorists,

 For planning terrorist attacks,

 For recruitment of sympathizers,

 For Communication purposes

 For command and control

 Spreading propaganda in form of malicious content online to brain wash using their myopic ideological view

 For funding purposes

 As a new arena for attacks in pursuit of the terrorists’ political and social objectives.

From that perspective, the challenges from non-state actors to national security are extremely grave. The shadowy world of the terrorist takes on even murkier dimensions in cyberspace where anonymity and lack of attribution are a given.

The government has taken a number of measures to counter the use of cyberspace for terrorist-related activities especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Mumbai in November 2008. Parliament passed

 2008 amendments to the IT Act, with added emphasis on cyber terrorism and cyber-crime,

 The Information Technology (Guidelines for Cyber Cafe) Rules, 2011 under the umbrella of the IT Act.

In doing so, the government has had to walk a fine balance between the fundamental rights to privacy under the Indian Constitution and National Security Requirements.

While Cyber ‘Hactivism’ cannot quite be placed in the same class, many of its characteristics place it squarely in the realm of Cyberterrorism both in terms of methods and end goals.


Cyber Warfare: The Fifth domain of warfare

The evolution of technology impacts the nature of conflict and war. Cyber Warfare is a very recent yet evolving phenomenon.

In the absence of a formal definition of cyber warfare, we may define it as “actions by a nation-state or its proxies to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of espionage, causing damage or disruption”. These hostile actions against a computer system or N/W can take two forms: cyber exploitation and cyber-attacks.

Cyber exploitation is in a manner nondestructive and includes espionage. It is usually clandestine and is conducted with the smallest possible intervention that allows extraction of the information sought. It does not seek to disturb the normal functioning of a computer system or N/W. The best cyber exploitation is one that a user never notices. These are silent and ongoing, and as mentioned earlier, have shown an upward trend.

Cyber-attacks on the other hand are destructive in nature. These are deliberate acts of vandalism or sabotage – perhaps over an extended period of time – to alter, disrupt, deceive, degrade, or destroy an adversary’s computer systems or N/Ws or the information and programs resident in or transiting these systems or N/Ws.

Actors in both types of activities cover a wide range, as mentioned earlier. Of these, nation states and their proxies are of the greatest concern. For easier understanding, the domains of cyber warfare may broadly be classified as:

  1. Espionage – Intelligence gathering and data theft. Examples of this were Titan Rain and Moonlight Maze. These activities could be by criminals, terrorists or nations as part of normal information gathering or security monitoring.
  2. Vandalism – Defacing web pages or use DDOS to take them down. Such actions were evident in Estonia or Georgia.
  3. Sabotage – This has the most serious implications and includes DDOS, destruction of data, and insertion of malware and logic bombs. It also encompasses actions in war such as those taken for preparation of the battlefield.


The Need to be Prepared

The growing threat of cyber warfare has not been well appreciated or sufficiently understood. Cyber warfare forms a part of Information War (IW), which extends to every form of media, and inter alia includes aspects of propaganda and perception management. Cyberspace, though technically restricted to the Internet, is now increasingly linked by convergence to every communication device. With greater connectivity, this divide is narrowing and every citizen or aspect of life is vulnerable. It is also an important constituent of NCW – amongst the recent aspects of involving in conflict is “No Contact War” (NCW) wherein there is no “physical” or “kinetic” action across borders.

The cyber realm, like the universe, is expanding and it is estimated that by 2015 there will be almost double the number of devices connected to the Internet as there are people. The scope for exploitation by inimical elements, ranging from mischievous hackers, to criminals, terrorists, non-state actors as also nation

A wakeup call !

Stuxnet, the cyber worm created by US’ National Security Agency and Israeli military and posed a massive attack on the cyber infrastructure of Iran’s nuclear enrichment centre at Natanz.


Components of critical infrastructure such as

 Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and

 Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems were targeted by the Stuxnet malware that attacked supposedly secure Iranian nuclear facilities. Stuxnet exploited five distinct zero-day vulnerabilities in desktop systems, apart from vulnerabilities in PLC systems.

Indian investigators had already found Stuxnet in Indian systems in early 2012.

states, is thus unlimited. The damage could be immense and many countries are pressing ahead and taking steps to build capabilities and capacities for defending themselves, as also taking offensive action in cyberspace.

 The United States was the first country to formally declare this as the fifth domain warfare after land, sea, air and space. It has also formally classified the use of cyberspace as a “force”, a euphemism for offensive capability.

 The Chinese adopted the concept of “informationalisation” in the mid-1990s and have relentlessly built up structures and operations in this domain to stage a non-conventional threat to stronger inimical states.

o In 2010 China overtly introduced its first department dedicated to defensive cyber warfare and information security in response to the creation of USCYBERCOM. The race is thus on.

 Consequent to the raising of the US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), South Korea followed with the creation of a Cyber Warfare Command in December 2009.

 The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has begun preparing a cyber-force, as also France.

Recently NSA of India made a remark that “India has a national cyber security policy not a national cyber security strategy”. This conveys all the concerns regarding lack of preparation for a Cyber warfare scenario.


Cyber Deterrence:

The concept of cyber deterrence is also being debated but it is not clear whether cyber deterrence can hold in cyberspace, given the easy involvement of non-state actors and lack of attribution.


Cyber counter-intelligence

are measures to identify, penetrate, or neutralize foreign operations that use cyber means as the primary tradecraft methodology, as well as foreign intelligence service collection efforts that use traditional methods to gauge cyber capabilities and intentions.


 The issue whether cyber-attacks can be termed as acts of warfare and whether international law on warfare applies to cyber warfare is being hotly debated in global arena.

Multilateral discussions are veering around to debating whether there should be rules of behavior for state actors in cyberspace. The issue becomes extremely complicated because attacks in cyberspace cannot be attributed to an identifiable person and the attacks traverse several computer systems located in multiple countries.

There is, however, ongoing debate between those who believe that cyber warfare is over-hyped and those who believe that the world is heading towards a cyber-Armageddon. Both sides have valid arguments, but even as that debate continues, cyber warfare as a construct has become inevitable because the number of countries that are setting up cyber commands is steadily growing.

There is, therefore, a pressing need to think about norms for cyber warfare, whether the laws of armed conflict (LoAC) can be adapted to cyber warfare, and how principles like proportionality and neutrality play out in the cyber domain.

Indian initiative to combat Cyber-attacks/threats

India is a target. There have been numerous incidents of sensitive government and military computers being attacked by unknown entities and information being stolen. The frequency and intensity of such episodes is increasing. There is enough evidence to suggest that this is the action of nation states either directly or through proxies.


  1. India’s approach to Cyber Security:
  2. Enabling Legal Framework
  3. Cyber Security Policy
  4. Compliance and Assurance
  5. Cyber Security R&D Security
  6. Incident – Early Warning and Response

 National Cyber Alert System o

 CERT-In and Sectoral CERTs o

 Information Exchange with International CERTs

  1. Security training

 Skill & Competence development

 Domain Specific training – Cyber Forensics, Network & System Security Administration

  1. Collaboration

 International

 National

  1. Enabling legal framework :

The Information Technology ( IT ) Act 2000, later amendment in 2008to define Data Protection &Cyber crimes.Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 has been enacted and rules of important sections have been notified. The provisions of the Information Technology Act deal with evidentiary value of electronic transactions, digital signatures, cyber-crimes, cyber security and data protection.


  1. National Cyber security Policy 2013

India released its first cyber security policy called National Cyber Security Policy in 2013.

The National Cyber Policy 2013 document outlines a road-map to create a framework for comprehensive, collaborative and collective response to deal with the issue of cyber security at all levels within the country.

Vision: To build a secure and resilient cyber space for citizen, businesses and Government.

Mission: To protect information and information infrastructure in cyberspace, build capacities to prevent and respond to cyber threats, reduce vulnerabilities and minimize damage from cyber incidents through a combination of institutional structure, people, process, technology and cooperation.


 To create secure cyber-ecosystem and enable adequate trust and confidence in electronic transactions and also guiding stakeholders actions for protection of cyber space.

 To create an assurance framework for design of security policies and enable actions for compliance of global standards.

 To strengthen regulatory framework for ensuring secure cyber ecosystem.

 To develop suitable indigenous technologies in ICT sector.

 To increase the visibility of integrity of ICT product by establishing infrastructure for testing and validation of security of such product.

 To create a workforce of 500,000 professionals skilled in cyber security in next five years.

 To provide fiscal benefits for corporate for adoption of cyber security.

 To safeguard the privacy of citizen’s data.

 To enable effective prevention,detection and investigation of cyber crimes

 To create the culture of cyber security.

 To enhance global cooperation in cyber security

 To enhance protection and resilience of National Critical Information Infrastructure.

 To enhance national and sectoral 24*7 mechanisms for monitoring cyber threats.


  1. Creating a secure cyber ecosystem :
  2. Designate nodal agency for coordination in cyber security related issues
  3. Designate Chief Information Security Officer (CSIO) in all organization.

iii. Encourage all organization to come out with cyber security policy in line with national policy

  1. Ensure all organization allocate some part of their budget for cyber security
  2. Fiscal schemes for cyber security
  3. Encourage trustworthy and indigenous ICT products.
  4. Creating assurance framework:
  5. To promote adoption of best practices
  6. Encouraging open standards
  7. Strengthening regulatory framework
  8. Creating mechanisms for security threats early warning , vulnerability management and response to security needs:
  9. Implement cyber crisis management plan.
  10. Securing e-governance services
  11. Protecting and resilience of Critical Information Infrastructure
  12. Promoting research and development in cyber security
  13. Reducing supply chain risk
  14. Create testing infrastructure and facilities for ICT products.
  15. Human resource development
  16. Creating Cyber awareness:
  17. Developing effective public private partnership
  18. Information sharing and cooperation
  19. Bilateral and multi lateral relationship in information sharing.
  20. Enhance national and global cooperation

iii. Mechanism for dialogue in the field of cyber security

  1. Prioritized approach for implementation


The National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC)

 Received an in-principle approval from the cabinet committee of security in May 2013 yet to become a reality.

 Will collect, integrate and scan [Internet] traffic data from different gateway routers of major ISPs at a centralized location for analysis, international gateway traffic and domestic traffic will be aggregated separately.

 The NCCC will facilitate real-time assessment of cyber security threats in the country and generate actionable reports/alerts for proactive actions by the concerned (law enforcement) agencies.

 Though the government won’t say that they would be able to look into your Facebook or Twitter accounts as and when required, the fact remains that the setting up of the federal Internet scanning agency will give law enforcement agencies direct access to all Internet accounts, be it your e-mails, blogs or social networking data.

 Till now CERT-In was involved partially in this type of work although without intruding into any personal accounts.

 DG CERT-In is called National cyber coordinator. Now, the government is undecided on whom to appoint national cyber coordinator – the head of the NCCC.

 So far, CERT-IN has been the lead agency in signing agreements for better coordination with the international community.

The CERT-In (Cyber Emergency Response Team – India)

 Established in 2004, CERT-In function under DIT

 CERT-In is India’s response to cyber threats and has following charter, mission and constituency.

 Charter: “The purpose of the CERT-In is, to become the nation’s most trusted referral agency of the Indian Community for responding to computer security incidents as and when they occur”

 Mission “To enhance the security of India’s Communications and Information Infrastructure through proactive action and effective collaboration.”

 Constituency: The CERT-In’s constituency is the Indian Cyber-community.

 is mandated under the IT Amendment Act, 2008 to serve as the national agency in charge of cyber security

Since Nov 2012, DG of CERT-In is called the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC)


The NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation)

 Set up in 2004.

 Is a technical intelligence agency under the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office, India.

 It also includes National Institute of Cryptology Research and Development (NICRD)

Critical Information Infrastructure:


Critical infrastructures are increasingly dependent on the information infrastructure for information management, communication and control functions. Certain information infrastructure or infrastructure sectors are of special importance.

According to Section 70(1) of the Information Technology Act 2000, Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) is defined as a “computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which, shall have debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety.”

Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) is that ICT infrastructure upon which core functionality of Critical Infrastructure is dependent.

Among these Critical Information Infrastructures (CIIs) which are intricately interrelated and interdependent are

 Defense

 Space

 Banking and finance

 Power

 Transport

 Communications

 water supply

 Public Health

 Law enforcement agency

 Sensitive Government organizations

 Critical manufacturing

 E-Governance



 Complex

 Distributed

 Interconnected

 Interdependent

Effect of cyber attack on CII:

 Damage or Destruction of CII

 Disruption or Degradation of Services

 Loss of Sensitive / Strategic information

 Cascading Effect


  1. National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)

National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) of National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) as the nodal agency under Section 70A(1) of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 for taking all measures including associated Research and Development for the protection of CIIs in India.

NCIIPC – Key Responsibilities:

  1. National Nodal Agency to protect NCII.
  2. Deliver advice to reduce vulnerabilities.
  3. Identify all CII elements for notification.
  4. Provide strategic leadership and coherent Government response.
  5. Coordinate, share, monitor, collect, analyse and forecast threats.
  6. Develop plans, adopt standards, share best practices and refine procurement processes
  7. Evolve protection strategies, policies, vulnerability assessment and auditing methodologies and plans for CII. 8. Undertake R&D to create, collaborate and develop technologies for growth of CII protection.
  8. Develop training programs for CII protection.
  9. Develop cooperation strategies.
  10. Issue guidelines, advisories etc. in coordination with CERT-In and other organisations.
  11. Exchange knowledge and experiences with CERT-In and other organisations. 13. NCIIPC may call for information and give directions to CII.

Any delay, distortion or disruption in the functioning of these CIIs can easily be lead to political, economic, social or national instability.

Taking telecommunications as a case in point, CII (Critical Information Infrastructure) in India comprises around 150 Internet and telecom service providers, offering Internet, mobile and wireless connectivity to a user base of nearly 800 million.

A major portion of data communication is facilitated by submarine cables .India has landing points for major submarine cable systems which are minimally protected. A preview of what could happen by way of these cables being disabled took place in 2008 when a series of outages and cable cuts in undersea cables running through the Suez Canal, in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia caused massive communications disruptions to India and West Asia.

Other sectors that could be subject to serious threats include the financial sector, which has largely transferred operations online. Stock exchanges in the United States and Hong Kong have reportedly been subject to cyber-attacks. The electricity grid is also vulnerable with the inevitable move towards a smart grid, given the economic and efficiency factors.

The protection of critical infrastructure is a complex task requiring forethought, planning, strong laws, technologies, PPP and resources. For all these reasons it needs to be given top priority by the government.

As in other countries, much of the infrastructure related to cyberspace is with the private sector. The government would necessarily have to work closely with the private sector, particularly in promoting cyber security practices and cyber hygiene

Compliance and Assurance:

  1. Computer Security Guidelines have been circulated to all Departments and Ministries.
  2. Cyber security drills are being conducted to assess preparedness of critical organisations.
  3. 54 Auditors have been empanelled for audit of IT infrastructure from cyber security point of view.
  4. Crisis Management Plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism has been released and is being updated annually. Enabling workshops are being conducted in different sectors and states/UTs.
  5. Common Criteria (CC) product testing facility has been set up which caters up to level 4 CC certification. Controller of Certifying Authority (CCA) has licensed 7 Certifying Authorities (CA). More than 22 lakhs Digital Signature Certificates have been issued. Major Applications using
  6. Digital Signatures include e-Procurement for Central and State Govt., e-Tendering, e-Filing of returns (MCA-21), Income Tax filing for corporate and individuals, Inter bank transactions (RTGS and SFMS), E-Filling of Patent Application and NSDL Applications.

Security Incident – Early Warning and Response:

  1. A Computer Emergency Response Team –India (CERT-In) has been set up and is operational as the national agency for cyber incidents. It operates a 24×7 Incident Response Help Desk to help users in responding to cyber security incidents. It has been issuing regular alerts on cyber security threats and advises countermeasures to prevent attacks.
  2. CERT-In has established linkages with international CERTs and security agencies to facilitate exchange of information on latest cyber security threats and international best practices. CERT-In, in collaboration with CII, NASSCOM and Microsoft, has created a portal “secureyourpc.in” to educate consumers on cyber security issues.

Cyber Security R&D:

A number of R&D projects have been supported at premier academic and R&D institutions in the identified Thrust Areas, viz.

  1. Cryptography and cryptanalysis
  2. Steganography
  3. Network & systems security assurance
  4. Network Monitoring
  5. Cyber Forensics
  6. Capacity Development in the area of cyber security. A host of Cyber Forensic tools have been developed in the country

Capacity Development/Training:

  1. Training Centres have been set up at CBI, Ghaziabad and Kerala Police to facilitate advanced training in cyber crime investigation.
  2. Computer forensic labs and training facilities are being set up in J&K state, North Eastern states. Forensic Centres have been set up with the help of NASSCOM at Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhopal and Kolkata. Virtual training environment based training modules have been prepared.
  3. Training has been conducted for Orissa, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Judicial Officers on Cyber Crime Investigation. 94 training 4 programmes have been conducted by CERT-In on specialized Cyber Security topics – in which 3392 people have been trained.


  1. As part of National level Cooperation, Cyber security awareness programmes were organised in cooperation with industry associations – CII, NASSCOM-DSCI. MoUs were signed with product and security vendors for vulnerability remediation. Several activities were undertaken under International Cooperation. International level Cyber security drills were held with Asia –Pacific CERTs.
  2. Specific cyber security cooperation agreements were signed with US, Japan and South Korea. India participated in cyber security drills of US (Cyber Storm III).
  3. CERT-In experts helped in establishment of CERT-Mauritius. India is participating in Internet traffic scanning in Asia-pacific region. India is a member of UN Committee of Group of Experts as well as in the Council of Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) for enhancing cooperation in the area of Cyber Security.

Current status of Cyber Security preparedness:

The initiatives taken by the Government so far have focused on the issues such as cyber security threat perceptions, threats to critical information infrastructure and national Security, protection of critical information infrastructure, adoption of relevant security technologies, enabling legal processes, mechanisms for security compliance and enforcement, Information Security awareness, training and research.

These actions have significantly contributed to the creation of a platform that is capable of supporting and sustaining the efforts to securing the cyber space. However, due to the dynamic nature of cyber threat scenario, these actions need to be continued, refined and strengthened from time to time. Salient features of the results of actions and the level of cyber security preparedness include:

  1. a) Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 has been enacted to cater to the needs of National Cyber Security by addressing host of issues such as technology related cyber crimes, critical information infrastructure protection, data security and privacy protection.
  2. b) Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has been operational as a national agency for cyber security incident response. It has established operational linkages with overseas CERTs, and cyber security professional organisations to enhance its ability to respond to the cyber security incidents and take steps to prevent recurrence of the same.
  3. c) PKI infrastructure, set up to support implementation of Information Technology Act and promote use of Digital Signatures, has enabled the growth and application of digital signature certificates in a number of areas. (d) National Crisis Management Plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism has been prepared and is being updated annually. Central Govt. Ministries/Departments and States and UTs as well as organisations in critical sectors are making efforts to prepare and implement their own sectoral Crisis Management Plans.
  4. d) To enable comprehensive cyber security policy compliance, the Govt. has mandated implementation of security policy within Govt. in accordance with the Information Security Management System (ISMS) Standard ISO 27001. In addition, Computer security guidelines have been issued for compliance within Govt. A Common Criteria based IT product security testing facility has been set up at Kolkata, which can test IT products up to EAL4.
  5. e) A mechanism for audit and assessment of security posture of Govt. and critical sector organisations has been put in place. Security Auditors have been empanelled for conducting security audits including vulnerability assessment, penetration testing of computer systems and networks of various organizations of the government, critical infrastructure organizations and those in other sectors of the Indian economy. Cyber security drills are being conducted regularly to assess the preparedness of organisations to resist and mitigate cyber attacks.
  6. f) R&D activities have been supported through premier Academic and R&D Institutions in the country facilitating creation of R&D infrastructure, development skills and solution oriented development.
  7. g) Nation-wide Information Security Education and Awareness Programme have been in progress to create necessary cyber security awareness through formal and informal programmes. Cyber security training facilities have been set up to provide training to law enforcement agencies and facilitating cyber crime investigation.
  8. Need for an International Convention on Cyberspace

Cyber security is becoming an indispensable dimension of information security. The rapid growth of ICTs has contributed immensely to human welfare but has also created risks in cyberspace, which can destabilize international and national security. Additionally, the growth of social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has created a new medium for strategic communication that by-passes national boundaries and national authorities.

The global data transmission infrastructure also depends critically on the N/W of undersea cables, which is highly vulnerable to accidents and motivated disruptions.

Given the positive as well as negative potential of cyberspace, there has been talk of devising an international convention on cyber security which would ensure that states behave responsibly in cyberspace.

There already exist several international conventions (chemical weapons convention, biological toxins and weapons convention, NPT, etc.) and a body of international humanitarian law (Geneva and Hague conventions) from which inspiration can be drawn to build up a Cyber Warfare Convention.

A pressing question to be considered in the current unpredictable cyber scenario is the following.

 Should India actively engage itself in international efforts in framing a treaty or drawing up a framework of coherent cyber laws? Or, alternatively, should it wait till its own cyber capabilities mature to a level that they are beyond the ambit of control regimes that may evolve as subsidiaries of a proposed cyberspace treaty?

Such a question has faced decision-makers right from the missile to nuclear technology control regime eras.

Opponents of a cyberspace-related treaty argue that even though the international efforts for harmonization of international legal frameworks for cyberspace do not refer to technology control regimes in their current manifestations, it would be just a matter of time before corollaries of such a treaty may emerge which would be based on technology control regimes; and signing such a treaty would result in undermining national sovereign interests. Similar arguments are brought up in respect of the European Convention on Cyber crime which, countries like Russia maintain, undermines their sovereignty.

The argument is that such treaties are biased in favour of the requirements of the major international players/powers and that India should stay aloof from such exercises till its own cyber capabilities mature to a level that they are beyond the ambit of control regimes. But this type of isolationist approach is extensively dependent on capability maturity model; and derives little or no benefit of the opportunities that can be capitalized by following an engagement model towards these treaties and conventions.

On the other hand, most of these cyber treaties are currently in their infancy and are undergoing development at various tier. If at this stage India proactively engages with the international community in drafting these cyber treaties and conventions, and capitalizes on this opportunity by mounding these cyber treaties and conventions to suit its sovereign interests, then the benefits achieved by the engagement approach would, without doubt, outweigh the potential outcomes of an isolationist approach.

Can there be a convention to govern cyber warfare, cyber weapons, use of force in cyber warfare, prevent cyber crime, etc.? As debate on these issues goes on, there is as yet no convention governing cyberspace.

A cyber convention would be unlike existing conventions in many ways. This is because in cyberspace attribution and identification is extremely difficult and identities can be easily masked. Cyber attacks also typically involve systems located in many countries. Often, cyber attacks are silent and go unnoticed for long periods.

UNGA has regularly passed resolutions on information security. Information security summits have been held in which cyber security has also been discussed. Several regional initiatives like the European Convention on Cyber crime have been in existence for decades. These efforts can be consolidated in the form of a cyberspace convention.

The key issues for consideration for a possible cyberspace convention would be:

  1. National critical infrastructures should not be harmed.
  2. Secure, stable and reliable functioning of the Internet should be ensured.
  3. A common understanding of Internet security issues should be evolved.
  4. National governments should have the sovereign right to make national policies on ICT consistent with international norms.
  5. A global culture of cyber security based on trust and security should be encouraged.
  6. The digital divide should be overcome.
  7. International cooperation should be strengthened.
  8. PPP should be encouraged.
  9. CIA (Confidentiality – Integrity – Availability) of information systems should be ensured.
  10. Balance between the need to maintain law and order and fundamental human rights should be maintained.

Such a convention would also define more precisely what constitutes threat in cyberspace and what would be the basic principles of information security.

 It would have many don’ts, as for instance the obligations on states not to take any overt or clandestine measures which would result in cyber warfare.

 It would also need to define what the use of force in cyberspace would mean and in what circumstances such force can be used, if at all.

 How would a state react if it is subjected to cyber attacks by a state, or a non-state actor, or by a combination of the two?

o Given the nature of cyberspace, where attribution is difficult, these prohibitions will be hard to define and even harder to agree upon.

Arriving at a cyberspace convention would prove highly contentious. Yet, in India we need to debate openly the merits and demerits of the international law on cyberspace. Is such a convention possible at all? An Indian view needs to be evolved.


  1. Digital Armed Force

Digital Army Programme:

Digital India:

The vision of Digital India programme is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy .It has nine pillars.

In keeping with the national vision of Digital India, the Indian Army has launched a program for Digital Army with nine pillars for digitisation. Three of the nine pillars of this umbrella program, namely Broadband highways, Universal access to telephones and Army Data Network stress upon Information Technology Infrastructure development. Another three namely e-Governance, Electronic delivery of services and Online information for all, focus on delivery of services to all units and formation headquarters. For any modern army, the Network Centric Operations are essential for meeting enhanced challenges of asymmetry, lethality, fluidity and non-linearity in the present day battlefield. The Indian Army is addressing this key area comprehensively.


Army and Digital India

The Army, since Independence, has lead the national effort in a number of ways and Digital India is a programme where it can become a lead contributor.

Some examples where the Army has already taken lead in building the Digital India vision are as under

 Network for Spectrum Optical Fibre project is a pan India network which will have the requisite band width for Broadband Highways.

 ARPAN 3.0, automation software for Army personnel, has been launched by the Defence Minister. It provides the Army personnel easy access to their service records, such as salary, leave, transfer and postings. This is digital empowerment of members of the Army.

The vision of Digital India can be the vision for all ranks of the Army too. Let us look into the role the Army can play in the 9 pillars of Digital India

 Broadband Highways – The Network for Spectrum Optical Fibre Network is already being implemented on ground and will provide the backbone infrastructure required for Broadband Highways. It should be feasible to cover this network right down to battalion level.

 Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity – The booming mobile phone industry is enabling access to Smart Phones to all citizens of the country. This is making it possible for all ranks of Armed Forces to have access to Smart Phones. Armed Forces would have a role to play to ensure that mobile tower infrastructure is given access in defence areas to enable Armed Forces personnel to access mobile communications.

 Public Internet Access Program – Internet today is becoming a necessity for all citizens. The mobile service providers are already providing this service on mobile phones. The issue of providing free wi-fi hotspots in military areas will have to be examined from the security point of view. It is possible to provide Internet access to all ranks with suitable security instructions and a monitoring mechanism without impinging on privacy.

 eGovernance – In respect of Army, this would imply providing administrative services in e-format. This is one area where Army needs to work a lot. Our services, for example in Cantonments, are still paper based with large lead times. Army needs to make an e-governance task force to steer this on a fast track basis. Another aspect which needs consideration is to provide all ranks access to their home station eGovernance portal from their place of posting. This will ease a large number of their problems.

 e-Kranti – With expectations on the rise ,eKranti is another area where the Army can make a difference for its personnel. Some areas of activity can be

o e-Education – All training institutions can be interconnected and Digital based education can be provided. We can develop pilot projects on Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Some work is already underway in this field.

o e-Healthcare – Healthcare is an area which can have a revolutionary effect. Online medical records, Pan India exchange of patient information, online consultation etc are few of the many possibilities in improving health care access to all personnel.

o GIS – Armed Forces can be part of the National GIS Mission Mode Project and use its facilities for GIS based decision making.

o Security – Technology can be leveraged to improve security, something which is a necessity as far as Army is concerned. Cyber Security needs to be given the impetus required to safeguard us from Cyber Threats.

o Financial Inclusion – We are aware that majority of our personnel are financially illiterate and have limited access to financial services. Financial inclusion will help personnel posted in field areas to easily transfer money and do a host of financial transactions without having to visit government offices/banking institutions.

 Information for All – The Army has already taken a number of measures to provide information to all ranks on both the Army Intranet and the internet. The Army can easily work towards providing more valuable information to all ranks.

 Electronics Manufacturing – Majority of the Indian Army weapon platforms are imported. Key components of these imports are electronics. The Army can contribute towards the aim of net zero import by 2020 by closely working with the industry to source electronics items from local manufacturers.

 IT for Jobs- While the aim of IT for jobs is make an IT ready workforce, Army also needs to train all personnel in the IT domain. It will help them being IT literate as well as make them industry ready when they leave the Army.

 Early Harvest Programme -The programme can be utilised by the Armed Forces as under

o Wi-Fi in all Universities – For the Army, this can be implemented as Wi-Fi for all Training establishments. Wi-Fi access in Training establishments is feasible with fewer security issues.

o Secure email within Government – The process of providing government emails has already commenced. Army can fast track this process to ensure that all authorised users are provided secure Government email, which in turn would become the primary mode of communication outside of the Army Intranet. It will enable official communications to move away from Gmail, Yahoo Mail etc

o Standardised Government email Design – As is being done by the government, we will also have to design our email design templates as per our requirements .While such templates are already functional in the Army intranet, templates where mail has to be sent by internet needs to be worked out.

As brought out above, it is highly feasible to implement the Digital India program within the Army. To play a lead and a contributory role in implementation and success of the Digital India program, the Army needs to build an ecosystem which takes the programme forward. While it will not be feasible to raise a new organisation to steer it forward, it is possible to nominate an establishment as the nodal agency for monitoring and progressing implementation of the program. Actual implementation responsibility can be given to different directorates/branches/commands as per tasks involved. It would also require the Army to co-opt other organisations like DRDO, other branches of government as required, sister services (Air Force and Navy) etc to efficiently implement this program. The canvas of Digital India in the Army is enormous. It only requires imagination and drive to make this an enormous facilitator for all ranks of the Army.


In the overall gambit of implementing Digital India in the Army, the biggest concern would be security. Security is something which will remain paramount to the Army and it is here that some disconnect in its implementation may exist. In the civil arena, generally, implementation comes first and security follows based on security breaches, security alerts etc. whereas in the Army, security precedes implementation of programmes. That is the reason that world over, the networks, communication systems, etc of the Army are a generation behind the civil industry. On the positive side, there are a number of components of the Digital India program which can be easily implemented without any major security issue.

Digital India provides an opportunity for the Army to lead the effort in developing and integrating security in the Digital India infrastructure. Army, sister services, DRDO and other Research and Development agencies can get together to take this effort forward. This effort has to be in house as security cannot be outsourced.


Digital India is an umbrella program to provide efficient services to all citizens. Army can utilise this opportunity to make the program accessible to all ranks. Some organisations within the Army are already implementing few aspects of the Digital India. All the Army needs to do is to also create an umbrella organization to efficiently implement this program and not let it remain in individual silos.



Under Section 84A of Information Technology Act, 2000 Rules are to be framed to prescribe modes or methods for encryption. In this regard, a draft National Encryption Policy was formulated by an Expert Group setup by Government.

The aim was to enable information security environment and secure transactions in Cyber Space for individuals, businesses, Government including nationally critical information systems and networks.

Objective of the Policy:

To synchronize with the emerging global digital economy / network society and use of Encryption for ensuring the Security / confidentiality of data and to protect privacy in information and communication infrastructure without unduly affecting public safetyand National Security.

 To encourage wider usage of Digital Signature by allentities including Government for trusted communication, transactions and authentication.

 To encourage the adoption of information security best practices by all entities and Stakeholders in the Government, public & private sector and citizens that are consistent with industry practice.

Need for encryption policy?

India needs a policy on encryption to provide guidance on the use of information/ data within the country in a regulated manner and ensure that our government agencies can access them for investigating serious issues related to terrorism, national security and critical infrastructure.

What is Encryption?

It is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it. Encryption does not of itself prevent interception, but denies the message content to the interceptor. In an encryption scheme, the intended communication information or message, referred to as plaintext, is encrypted using an encryption algorithm, generating cipher text that can only be read if decrypted.

What is the purpose of encryption?

It is to ensure that only somebody who is qualified to access data (e.g. a text message or a file) will be able to read it, using the decryption key. Somebody who is not qualified to access the information can be excluded from doing that, because he does not have the required decryption key. Without it, it’s impossible to read the encrypted information.

In that way, it’s possible to protect random people from reading private information.

3 different encryption methods

There are three different basic encryption methods, each with their own advantages

 Hashing

Hashing creates a unique, fixed-length signature for a message or data set. Each “hash” is unique to a specific message, so minor changes to that message would be easy to track. Once data is encrypted using hashing, it cannot be reversed or deciphered. Hashing, then, though not technically an encryption method as such, is still useful for proving data hasn’t been tampered with.

 Symmetric methods

Symmetric encryption is also known as private-key cryptography, and is called so because the key used to encrypt and decrypt the message must remain secure, because anyone with access to it can decrypt the data. Using this method, a sender encrypts the data with one key, sends the data (the ciphertext) and then the receiver uses the key to decrypt the data.

 Asymmetric methods

Asymmetric encryption, or public-key cryptography, is different than the previous method because it uses two keys for encryption or decryption (it has the potential to be more secure as such). With this method, a public key is freely available to everyone and is used to encrypt messages, and a different, private key is used by the recipient to decrypt messages.


  1. Draft National Encryption Policy
  2. Vision

To enable information security environment and secure transactions in Cyber Space for individuals, businesses, Government including nationally critical information systems and networks.

  1. Mission

To provide confidentiality of information in cyber space for individuals, protection of sensitive or proprietary information for individuals & businesses, ensuring continuing reliability and integrity of nationally critical information systems and networks.

III. Objectives

  1. i) To synchronize with the emerging global digital economy / network society and use of Encryption for ensuring the Security / confidentiality of data and to protect privacy in information and communication infrastructure without unduly affecting public safety and National Security.
  2. ii) To encourage wider usage of Digital Signature by all entities including Government for trusted communication, transactions and authentication.

iii) To encourage the adoption of information security best practices by all entities and Stakeholders in the Government, public & private sector and citizens that are consistent with industry practice.


Salient features

 All citizens “are required to store the plain text of the encrypted messages for 90 days” and provide it to law enforcement agencies as and when required.

 All vendors of encryption products need to register their products with the designated agency of the Government

 All encryption technology used in India shall be cleared by the government

 Government shall maintain a list of all encryption technologies and only those technologies which are on the list can be used in this country. It means government knows every encryption technology used in India

 Common use Web-based applications and social media sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter were exempted

 The encryption products being used in Internet-banking and payment gateways under direction of the RBI And those being used for e-commerce and password- based transactions, are also exempted.

 Research and Development programs will be initiated for the development of indigenous algorithms and manufacture of indigenous products for Encryption, hashing and other cryptographic functions.


Problem with draft:

  1. Policy will affect almost all Internet users- a majority is not even aware that it is using encryption technologies.
  2. The biggest concern of this new policy is around the fact that users and organizations would “on demand” need to store all communication in plain text for 90 days from the date of transaction and make it available to law enforcement agencies. Most of the users in India do not know the meaning of plain text and in such a case they can be held liable for not storing their encrypted data in plain text format. Thus, almost everyone using the Internet will find themselves in violation of these rules.
  3. In case of communication with any foreign entity, the primary responsibility of providing readable plaintext along with the corresponding encrypted information shall rest on the business or citizen located in India.
  4. Additionally, service providers located within and outside India, using encryption technology for providing any type of services in India, must enter into an agreement with the government. This is seen as impractical as there are many service providers around the world that use encryption. It would be highly unrealistic for all of these to enter into an agreement with the Indian government.
  5. Keeping a copy of the data will require huge storage and that will come at a cost.
  6. There is a fear that the policy will start a new “registration raj”, now that all encryption technologies that can be used in India will need to be certified and listed by the agencies concerned.
  7. For companies that store private data it would mean storing passwords in plain text, which means private and confidential data will remain unencrypted and hence vulnerable for 90 days.
  8. The government proposed to prescribe the algorithms and key sizes for encryption. This implies government control over all data.
  9. Smart Cities and Cyber Threats: Cities are incorporating new technologies at an increasingly rapid pace, becoming ever smarter. Newer technologies — along with faster and easier connectivity — allow cities to optimize resources, save money and provide better services to their citizens. Cities around the world — whether considered smart or not — face significant cyber security threats. These problems could have a direct impact on government, residents and the companies and organizations doing business there. Cyber security in cities is extremely important, but we have yet to fully realize the risk. Imagine what could happen if one or more technology-reliant services stopped working. What would commuting look like with no working traffic control systems, street lights or public transportation? How would citizens respond to an inadequate supply of electricity or water, dark streets and no cameras? What if waste collection was interrupted during the summer?

These scenarios might not be as unlikely as you think. There are many cyber security problems that could trigger them, such as:

  • Lack of Cyber Security Testing
  • Encryption Issues
  • Lack of Computer Emergency Response Teams
  • Large and Complex Attack Surfaces
  • Patch Deployment Issues
  • Insecure Legacy Systems
  • Simple Bugs with Huge Impact
  • Public Sector Issues
  • Lack of Cyber Attack Emergency Plans
  • Susceptibility to Denial of Service
  • Technology Vendors Who Impede Security Research



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