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India’s offensive cyber capability more focused on Pakistan than China, UK think tank says

Report by International Institute for Strategic Studies says India made only ‘modest progress’ in developing a cybersecurity policy, and is aware of threats it faces from China.

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New Delhi: India’s offensive cyber capability is “Pakistan-focused” and “regionally effective”, and not tuned towards China, despite a “sharp increase in Chinese activity against Indian networks”, says a new report by International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), an influential think tank.

The report, to be released Monday evening, says India knows it faces a cyber threat from China, especially from network systems built upon Chinese products.

“The military confrontation with China in the disputed Ladakh border area in June 2020, followed by a sharp increase in Chinese activity against Indian networks, has heightened Indian concerns about cyber security, not least in systems supplied by China”, The Indian Express quoted the report as saying.

IISS’ cyber programme head Greg Austin told The Indian Express, “India has some cyber-intelligence and offensive cyber capabilities but they are regionally focused, principally on Pakistan. It is currently aiming to compensate for its weaknesses by building new capability with the help of key international partners — including the US, the UK and France — and by looking to concerted international action to develop norms of restraint.”

The IISS report further said that China’s cyber power is “clearly inferior” to the United States and is “substantially below the combined cyber power of the US network of alliances”.

India placed in tier 3

The think tank has conducted an assessment of cyber power capabilities in 15 countries. The ongoing study will cover 40 countries including Germany, Singapore, and Nigeria among others.

The assessment measures a country’s cyber abilities on seven parameters — strategy, governance and control of cyber capabilities, core cyber-intelligence capability, cyber empowerment and dependence, cyber security and resilience, global leadership in cyberspace affairs, and offensive cyber capability.

The US is the only country in the first tier since it is deemed to have strengths across all parameters.

India is placed in the third tier, which means the country has potential strengths in some parameters but also has “significant weaknesses” in other parameters. The other tier 3 countries are Japan, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and North Korea.

Countries in the second tier include Australia, Canada, China, France, Israel, Russia, and the United Kingdom for having world-leading strengths in “some” categories.


Also read: Cyber threats now sit alongside nuclear ones – India needs a formal national strategy


India’s reform in cyber governance ‘slow’

The report also said “India has made only ‘modest progress’ in developing” a cybersecurity policy, despite the “geo-strategic instability” in the region and a “keen awareness” of the cyber threat it faces.

It added that India’s reformation of cyber governance has been “slow and incremental” with important coordinating cybersecurity authorities in civil and military domains being set up only in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

“India has a good regional cyber-intelligence reach but relies on partners, including the United States, for wider insight.”

India’s “best chance” of moving up to the second tier of cyber powers is “by harnessing its great digital-industrial potential and adopting a whole-of-society approach to improving its cyber security,” the IISS report added, noting that, “The private sector has moved more quickly than the government in promoting national cyber security.”


Also read: China-backed hackers RedFoxtrot targeted defence research, telecom in India, US firm finds


 

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