Can India Counter Chinese Cyber Warfare with its Offensive Cyber Operations?

chinese cyber warfare

The revelations of the Mumbai power outage of October 2020, which left the railways, stock market, hospitals, and a population of 20-million in Mumbai high and dry for several hours, has raised questions of whether India could counter Chinese cyber warfare in the future.

Today cyber power has become a part of the country’s strength. The cases of espionage, cyber warfare through phishing and malware attacks have multiplied two folds. India’s border tensions with neighbouring countries have led to a surge in cyberattacks.

This has acted as a disadvantage for India, since it fares far behind in terms of cyber power, as per the ‘National Cyber Power Index’ report published by the Belfer Center of Harvard Kennedy School, USA. The report suggested that China ranks under the top five most powerful countries in cyberspace.

So the question here is how much power does India hold in cyberspace?

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that India is constantly improving its cyber offensive capabilities to stand up against Chinese cyber warfare. In the past, several Indian firms have proved their abilities by fighting back against such activities.

The Indian hack-for-hire groups like Phronesis and Aglaya have displayed strong cyber offensive capabilities. These private players have remained successful in launching malware attacks against hostile neighbours.

Established by Retired Brigadier Prabhakar Bryan Miranda and Ram Chander Chhillar, Phronesis Corporate Intelligence Services is a cyber-intelligence firm that has played an important role in Fifth Generation Cyber Warfare.

In December 2015, Phronesis launched a successful malware attack on Chinese nationals within different industries and government agencies in Southern Asia. A US-based cybersecurity firm called Forcepoint Security Labs published an APT report – Monsoon, in which it stated a direct connection between the attack and the Indian firm.

As per the report, several domains were purchased to spread the malware. The investigators even identified 170 malicious documents and four distinct malware families in the attack, while concluding it to be a state-sponsored offensive cyber attack.

Due to its innovative cybersecurity capabilities and expertise in the ‘Offensive Security Playground’, Phronesis has proved to be the most favourable in terms of executing offensive cybersecurity missions. The company offers an all-round set of services – penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, cyber forensics, data leak assessment, mitigation consulting and cybersecurity training, needed to counter the ongoing Chinese cyberwarfare.

Like Phronesis, another Indian firm that rose to fame was Aglaya. Founded by Ankur Srivastava in Delhi, the firm gained recognition after participating in ISS World, an annual series of conferences informally known as the “Wiretappers’ Ball”,  in 2014.

Aglaya offered “Weaponised Information” services such as “infiltration”, “ruse”, and “sting” operations to manipulate events, discredit a target, individual or company. It also offered services for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, to “create false criminal charges against targets in their respective countries”. It was even attributed for carrying out a wide-scale social media disinformation campaign. The company claimed that its cyber strike capability was equivalent to a nuclear strike.

It has been stated that both Phronesis and Aglaya had even served customers in South East Asia and the Middle East while addressing the rising offensive security challenges in India. With the help of such similar firms, India is undoubtedly preparing a cyber warfare unit to fight the enemy in cyberspace.

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