India on Tuesday accused certain countries of using cyberspace expertise to conduct cross-border terrorism.
At the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla said there were widespread concerns that both State and non-state actors were now manipulating ICT (Information and Communications Technology) products.
The comments follow an international report that claimed India’s cybersecurity capabilities were weak, and in a year, the government had said, there had been a 300% increase in cyberattacks, including on several power grids, and more recently on Air India’s databases.
“Some States are leveraging their expertise in cyberspace to achieve their political and security-related objectives and indulge in contemporary forms of cross-border terrorism,” said Mr. Shringla, addressing the UNSC debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Cyber Security”, where he listed challenges for Internet networks worldwide.
The use of cyberspace by terrorists to “spread virulent propaganda, incite hatred and violence, recruit youth and raise funds”, as well as the ability of states and terrorists to infiltrate networks were other challenges, he said, without naming any countries.
“Such nefarious acts undermine the trust and confidence in the global ICT supply chain, compromise security and could become a flashpoint between States. It is in the interest of the international community to ensure that all actors abide by their international obligations and commitments and not indulge in practices that could have potentially disruptive effects on global supply chains and trade in ICT products.,” Mr. Shringla said, adding that such attacks could become a “flashpoint” between states.
On Monday, the report released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) assessed the cyber-power of 15 countries. It graded India as a “third-tier” cyber-power that had focussed its cyber intelligence and offensive capabilities too narrowly on Pakistan, and not other global threats further afield.
Increase in cyberattacks
In March last, the Ministry of Home Affairs told Parliament that there had been a three-fold increase in cyberattacks, growing from 394,499 in 2019 to 11,58,208 in 2020. While officials declined to name a specific reason for the attacks, the sharp increase appeared closely linked to the increase in tensions with China at the Line of Actual Control.
Also in March, the Power ministry said a “Chinese state-sponsored group Red Echo” was targeting the Indian power sector’s “Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs) along with State Load Dispatch Centres (SLDCs)” through a malware called “Shadow Pad”. The ministry claimed all threats had been thwarted due to early warnings from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MEITy’s) Cyber Emergency Response Team-In (India) (CERT-in), and the NTRO’s National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC). However a U.S.-based research firm claimed that a massive power outage in Mumbai in October 2020 was the result of a successful Chinese cyberattack.