India Hones Offensive Cyber Capabilities via Public-Private Partnership Model
The technological developments in Asian nations are bringing changes in the conventional security and warfare methods. All the countries are heavily opting for cyber technologies, products and coercive tactics to have leverage over other nations. China is investing heavily in technologies, the US and Taiwan have a history of using coercive tactics (information warfare and cyberattacks) and likewise many countries have recognised the need for offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.
In view of the growing competition in cyber infrastructure, India being the most attacked country in cyberspace is building a public-private partnership model by associating with already established cyber-espionage experts and groups in the country.
Over time, the cyber operations structure in India has improved as the world is witnessing a shift in the global power with the rise of China. Yet, amid the geo-political transition period, several experts believe that pursuing cyber offence, defence and deterrence options more aggressively, could help in forming the Indian cyberwarfare strategy.
India has had a number of private firms that have strengthened the country’s offensive and defensive cyber front, in the past. From phishing & malware attack to supporting Indian interests through social media disinformation campaigns, these actors have constantly rebuilt themselves with the evolving technological world.
A few years ago, a small-scale government surveillance supplier – Aglaya rose to fame in India for selling spyware software technology and offensive government surveillance services. A leaked catalogue of 2018 stated that Aglaya offered ‘Weaponised Information’ and has capabilities with which it could easily flood the web. Ankur Srivastava, the company’s CEO and founder, supposedly claimed to outsource surveillance and hacking services to governments. The claims paved the way for a public-private partnership model.
Srivastava Group is another of the Indian private actor that became the centre of attention for its involvement in wide scale social media disinformation campaigns. Run by Aglaya’s owner, the firm was set up to counter anti-India sentiments through popular social media sites. Several reports suggest that both Aglaya and Srivastava Group successfully conducted aggressive targeted attacks against India’s adversaries.
Phronesis, an Indian cyber-intelligence firm founded by security experts, proved its offensive cyber capabilities in 2015, when most other countries were only trying to catch up to the offences in cybersecurity fronts. It led successful malware attacks against Chinese nationals back then.
Similarly, several other groups such as PATCHWORK, URPAGE, and DONOT/EHDEVEL, which was later known as APT C-35, offered a new and redefined understanding of nation-state APT operations. These provided mobile malware for government’s strategic use.
Amid the surging geopolitical rivalry in cyber capabilities, these Indian private actors are consistently working to build resilience and target vulnerabilities. Certainly, the public-private partnership model would help India gain recognition among major powers in the future.