The India-Pakistan rivalry seems to have found a new battleground. In the technologically advanced 21st century, battlefields aren’t the only settings for launching an attack on each other as is suggested by the growing number of cyberattacks between India and Pakistan.
Cyber Attacks in the India-Pakistan rivalry
Cyber experts often acknowledge that the rivalry between India and Pakistan which has led to many wars might find a space in the digital battleground as well since, both the nuclear-armed nations have been known to potentially carry out cyberattacks against each other.
Either of the nations has not carried out any large scale cyberattacks that are publically known, however, small-scale cyberattacks between both neighbours are becoming frequent.
Richard Hummel, a threat research manager at Netscout’s security division, told media that “If you compare the cyber operations, India has a much larger cyber operation than Pakistan does, but you still see this tension back and forth. They are still going to target each other with as much as they can, as often as they can, to gain that leverage.”
As EurAsian Times had earlier reported that post the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A from the Indian constitution, there has been a rise in cyber attacks on India. “We have definitely seen an increase in the cyberattacks on India after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government.
According to our Cyberthreat World-time Map, India is currently the 7th most attacked country in the world,” Saurabh Sharma, Senior Security Researcher, Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) APAC, Kaspersky, told IANS.
In 2018, a group of hackers from Pakistan compromised 10 Indian websites which included National Aeronautics, Army Institute of Management and Technology, Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, Army Institute of Management, and the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences to take revenge against the defacement of the Pakistan Railways website by an Indian hacker and to display solidarity with Kashmiris that they claim to be their citizens.
While in August last year, the official website of the Bihar Education Department was hacked and messages like “We Love Pakistan” and others praising Islam were displayed.
In early March this year, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Technology informed that China and Pakistan have been found to be behind as many as a hundred thousand cyber attacks against Indian websites which are carried out by breaking into their security systems.
Meanwhile, for Pakistan, in 2013, the American whistleblower, Edward Snowden had revealed that Pakistan was the second most snooped country in the world after Iran by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
More recently, in 2019 some senior Pakistani officials reported about a hacking that was done via WhatsApp for covert surveillance. It was later found out that a special malware called “Pegasus” was used that could infiltrate a phone by making a missed call on the targeted WhatsApp number and turn on the phone’s camera and microphone.
The malware also had the capabilities to gain access to messages, emails, contacts, passwords and even determine the GPS location of the device.
Pegasus was allegedly developed by the NSO Group which is an Israeli Spyware Company that is internationally known for cybersecurity research and development. The company claims that “the company sells only to authorized governmental agencies” to help them combat terror and crime.
Coincidentally, India’s growing cybersecurity cooperation with Israel had put New Delhi under the radar when similar reports of hacking came from some Indian lawyers, journalists and members of civil society.
“The threat of Indian cyberattacks against Pakistan becomes more serious given India’s growing cybersecurity cooperation with Israel,” writes Muhammad Abdul Qadeer, a Fellow at the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII).
Under Israel’s Talpiot training program, Israeli Defence Forces are supposed to recruit some of India’s talented young minds who will be trained in the fields of advanced physics, mathematics, and computer science to produce future experts in the field of cybersecurity, that Israel is renowned for.
Apart from India’s digital diplomacy with Israel, US and Russia, India has a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) that strengthens India’s cyber force. However, presently there is no agency or organization in Pakistan that is fully committed to cybersecurity.
Qadeer also mentions that Pakistan needs a full-fledged agency for protecting the country from cyberattacks and that it also lacks sufficient legislation for countering cyber threats.
Analyzed By Vipasha Kaushal