By Sundar Balasubramanian, Managing Director at Check Point Software Technologies, India & SAARC
In today’s digital age, nations are no longer solely reliant on traditional military might to gain an upper hand in conflicts. The evolution of technology has cultivated a new kind of battle, one where nations engage in silent but devastating confrontations in cyber space. Cyber warfare involves using digital tools as strategic weapons to gain an advantage or disrupt adversaries’ operations.
Cyber warfare has the potential to reshape the contours of global conflicts. It allows nations to disrupt communication networks, steal sensitive information, and manipulate public opinion — all without firing a single bullet. The new era of cyber warfare presents novel and complex challenges that require a different approach from that associated with traditional warfare. The consequences of a successful cyber attack can be far-reaching, impacting national security, economic stability, and societal trust.
Across India, cyberattacks continue to risk as India sees more digital transformation and scores more people joining the mobile revolution. According to Check Point Software’s Threat Intelligence Report, an organization in India is being attacked on average 2,036 times per week in the last 6 months, compared to 1,206 attacks per organization globally, with the Government and Military sector in India in the top three most heavily attacked weekly by sector, with 3,326 weekly attacks per organization in the last six months (versus Global’s 1,737). And these are expected to increase in the coming years.
Last year, during the uproar due to the inappropriate comments made against Prophet Muhammad, over 70 cyberattacks were made on Indian websites, both government and private. Launched by hacktivist group, DragonForce Malaysia, the attacks targeted the Indian embassy in Israel, the National Institute of Agriculture Research and even educational institutions such as the Delhi Public School, Bhavans and other colleges across the country.
Protecting sensitive information and learning about the subject of cyber warfare is a must. Major global players use cyber attacks as a tool through which to show power in the ‘next level’ of war, using sophisticated methods that are constantly evolving. During the subsequent discussion, we will explore strategies that countries can employ in order to protect themselves.
NATO: In some cases, a cyberattack can be considered an act of war.
In recent years, the major players who have used these tools are countries such as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Russia, in particular, has been using cyber capabilities as part of its military strategy for many years. They have even employed these tools during military attacks on Georgia and Ukraine.
Iran has also used its cyber capabilities, mainly targeting Israel and other countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. One of its notable attacks was on Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia. This attack caused around 30,000 computers to be disabled and led to disruptions in the operations of certain oil terminals.
Thus, the E.U. has promoted legislation about cyber solidarity that’s intended to strengthen the EU’s capacity to detect, prepare for and respond to significant and large-scale cyber security threats and attacks. Because of the many cyber attack incidents in recent years, the European Union is obliged to protect its member states.
How can countries defend themselves?
To stay competitive in the new era of cyber warfare, countries must develop effective strategies that prioritize cyber security.
First, countries need to invest in cyber security education and workforce development programs to build a skilled workforce that’s capable of addressing evolving cyber threats. This includes training cyber security professionals, promoting cyber hygiene practices among the general public, and fostering research and innovation in cyber security technologies.
Second, countries should establish comprehensive incident response and recovery plans to address cyber attacks swiftly and effectively. These plans should outline roles, responsibilities, and coordination mechanisms among relevant government agencies, private sector entities, and international partners. Regular drills and simulations can be conducted to test and refine these plans.
In addition, governments can encourage the practice of ethical hacking and responsible vulnerability disclosure. This involves supporting bug bounty programs, where individuals are rewarded for identifying and reporting vulnerabilities in systems. By fostering a culture of responsible disclosure, countries can proactively address vulnerabilities and enhance the overall cyber security posture
Proactive Security Measures and Education
By implementing these kind of strategies, countries can strengthen their cyber security resilience and effectively respond to the new era of cyber warfare. Education, planning and proactive measures are essential to safeguarding national security in the digital age. With the right strategies and cooperation between nations, we can mitigate these risks and ensure that cyber space remains a safe and secure environment for all of us.