Along with the outer space, cyber space is rapidly emerging as a new and sophisticated theatre of warfare with serious consequences for the security of the countries that lack the expertise and infrastructure to ensure the safety of their information and communications networks and mount counter offensive. Indeed, the overall lethality and destructive potential of the cyber war, where the adversary remains invisible and difficult to detect, has been increasing at a phenomenal pace. Because stealth and anonymity are the distinct advantages of cyber war, it is possible to inflict unprecedented damages on the civilian and military assets of a targeted country at a short notice and that too without any elaborate preparations normally associated with a conventional war.
Moreover, cyber attacks could also easily be mounted on corporate and industrial entities to cripple their operations and put them out of the business by a breed of smart cyber hackers. “In the past, we could count the number of bombers and tanks your enemy had. In cyber war, we really can’t tell whether the enemy has the weapons until he uses them,” says Richard Clarke, a former Chairman of White House Critical infrastructure Protection Board.
Because cyber communications continues to be a dynamic and rapidly evolving area that is subject to the process of sustained innovations and refinements, there is no fool proof firewall capable of insulating the information networks and computer systems from the malicious manoeuvres of a well trained and highly motivated cyber warriors. The recent defacing of the websites of some of the key government of India organisations including the ones belonging to an advisor to the Prime Minister and DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) cannot but be a wakeup call for India. Of course, this cyber attack that reportedly took place on Oct 31 this year resulted in the temporary shutdown of a few Government of India (GOI) websites. However, GOI sources in New Delhi made it clear that these websites maintained by NIC (National Informatics Centre) did not contain any classified information. There were also intelligence reports in November, 2011 about the probable compromise of computers of the Eastern Naval Command located in Vishakhapatnam.