Indian Cyber Operations Outperforms Pakistani Cyber Warfare Skills
The cyberspace has become an important frontier in the fifth-generation warfare. This nature has increased cyber-conflict threefold and opting out is not an option anymore. Modern societies have become highly dependent on cyberspace and the only difference lies in the potential universe of “adversaries”, the ability to anticipate the attack and to immediately assemble a counterattack.
Since everything is networked, it is all vulnerable!
In the wake of cyber intrusions and attacks that have posed significant challenges, the Indian cyber platform is now improving. The country is developing new systems that focus upon honing offensive and defensive cyber infrastructure in the country. Moreover, it is actively involving private actors to counter such attacks and secure its cyberspace.
From phishing, malware practices to social media disinformation campaigns, the Indian private actors are strengthening their position in every sphere. The intention has been to relay the message that India possesses both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.
Recently, Indian cyber agencies identified that Pakistan was conducting an information warfare practice to spread confusion and generate fake news-based reactions in the Indian domestic cyber realm. Upon discovering Pakistan’s cyber warfare tactics, the Indian officials isolated the Twitter handles that became active during the recent “civil war” in Pakistan.
The handles had taken over the organic trending hash tags like “#civilwarinpakistan” and turned them into a case of information warfare carried out by Indian agencies to discredit Pakistan domestically and internationally. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) compiled a short report using the domestic situations in the country to send it to the Western think-tanks and politicians.
But the exposing of modus operandi made it clear that Pakistan has mounted cyber warfare against Indian interests. The Indian cyber agencies however, have nothing to fear. Their renewed focus on identifying and developing offensive cyber solutions has provided them with the ability to challenge the adversaries’ repeated acts of information warfare.
India’s Srivastava Group is one such actor that had previously used wide-scale social media disinformation campaigns to support Indian interests in cyberspace. In doing so, the Indian private actor was accused of spreading anti-Pakistan propaganda using fake media outlets.
750 fake media outlets were uncovered in a report named Indian Chronicles, although the authors failed to establish the network’s link with the Indian government. Fake news websites such as EU Chronicles, Japan Times Today, and Arizona Herald that regularly published Pakistan-centric stories were also involved in the disinformation campaign.
In 2019, the group’s International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), a little-known organisation, was also criticised for making arrangements for 23 EU MPs’ visit to non-official Kashmir and meet the Indian Prime Minister.
Other than that, India is also capable of launching phishing and malware attacks against Pakistani government and organisations. Over time, private threat groups in India like SideWinder and APT C-35 have used malicious documents to lure Pakistani bussinessmen into the trap.
Sidewinder came up with offensive cyber developments to tap into the adversaries’ crucial information to counter-attack in cyberspace. Spear phishing emails were sent to their victims via Excel XLS files. Moreover, aiming to conduct Information theft and espionage, APT C-35 used android malware named (StealJob) to target Pakistani android mobile users on the name of “Kashmiri Voice”, back in 2019.
In 2018, ASERT discovered a new modular malware framework called “yty” that shared a striking resemblance to the EHDlevel framework. The actor was internally defined as “Donot Team” by the ASERT team. To disguise the malware and its operations, the actors used false personas to register their domains instead of opting for privacy protection services.
Disinformation, phishing and malware practices have become a part of the playbook of all countries. However, in case of Pakistan and India these revelations have deepened the ongoing tensions between the two nations, now engaged in hybrid warfare. With the public-private partnership, Indian cyber agencies have a strong chance at defeating Pakistan in cyberspace.