Cyberwar!

When is too much information a bad thing? The July 3rd issue of The Economist featured an article on Cyberwar. You couldn’t fail to miss it, what with the cover depicting a pixelated apocalypse looming over some American city. The article went on to cover how cyber warfare is becoming a growing concern for multi-powers on both sides of the ocean.  The article highlights certain flaws in the current functioning of the internet. So if anyone didn’t know that they were weak points, they do now!

The article hints of a near apocalyptic situation precipitated by a silent warfare. The dawn of a new cold war. The difference being that the sides are hard to identify. The perpetrators remain anonymous and can operate from any geographic location. The article refers to the fact that there are ‘weakly governed swathes of Africa are being connected up to fibre-optic cables’. Could such developing nations, taking their first steps in the internet age become havens for cybercrime? There is even reference to the Chinese and attacks that have been launched from that country by unknown parties – cyber spies.  The most renowned example of cyberwarfare, dubbed as web war I was an attack on Estonian Government, Media and Bank servers that came about as a result of agitation against the moving of a Soviet era war memorial in central Tallinn in 2007. The very first cyber riot so to speak.

What would it be like if you are caught up in a cyber attack? The worst case scenario of a cyber attack on the US is portrayed as a loss of the electricity grid, throwing essential services into disarray. Oil refineries explode. The phone lines are jammed.  Military systems are targeted rendering intercontinental ballistic missiles obsolete. You would probably discover that your bank account has become inoperable. Food becomes scarce with the entire logistics network in complete disarray. True is this is probably an overly hyped description. There are international agencies such as Brit

Truth be told, how destructive would be a cyber attack on Indian soil could be? The lack of technology can actually play to our advantage. We don’t have social security numbers that someone can wreak havoc on. Can our electricity grid be paralysed by a cyber attack, don’t really know. However the truth be told, with the state of internet bandwidth in India today, I wouldn’t be surprised if brute force attacks are enough to cripple an internet target in India.

If that were not bad enough, in India more than half of us are aiding and abetting in cybercrime. Surprised? Well that pirated software you are using could just be having a piece of malware, a piece of code that helps monitor your network. You can also get malware from spam emails that give you links to download things from. One interesting tactic that I read in the article mentions someone dropping infected flash drives in a parking lot and having the victim pick it up. The unsuspecting person uses it and infects the target system. Seems absurd at first but if you really think about it, would you resist a shiny pen drive that appears out of nowhere at your feet?

Need we worry? Well most of us are still in the habit of saving everything on paper filed away. So on a personal basis, though it would cause a headache I am sure we would survive. Though we just hope our banks have got their backs covered.

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One Response to Cyberwar!

  1. As we move towards a system where every Indian gets a Unique Identification Number (which Nilekani’s UIDAI is developing), perhaps India’s lack (or perceived lack) of technology might no longer be the protection it is. Then the kind of vulnerability that USA’s SSN system has, will affect India too. There’s also China’s GhostNet, its vast cyberspying network, to consider.

    In a way, a cyberwar is already on between India and China.

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