Threats and Vulnerabilities to India's Information Infrastructure

Threats and Vulnerabilities to India's Information Infrastructure
Threats and Vulnerabilities to India's Information Infrastructure 

By Lt Cdr Prashant Bakshi (retd)
June 25, 2007

Whether it is satellite imagery through Google Earth, terrorist 
propaganda via Jihadist websites, or communication by electronic mail 
and instant messaging, exploitation of ICT infrastructure by terrorist 
outfits is on the rise and risk spectrum extremely broad

New Delhi: While the Indian economy is on an upswing, growing 
consistently at an average of over 9%, there are serious security 
concerns that loom ahead on the horizon, challenging our extraordinary 
progress. These concerns pertain not only to traditional security 
threats, such as terrorism, communal or sectarian violence, crime and 
militancy / insurgency but increasingly include non-traditional and 
unconventional threats as well.

In addition to major terrorist attacks on our commercial and financial 
centre Mumbai, which are largely perceived as efforts to undermine our 
economic strength, there have been recent attacks on our scientific 
institutes, such as the alleged terror attack on the Indian Institute of 
Science (IIS) Bangalore in December 2006. While our prowess in science 
and technology, and more specifically in Information Technology (IT), 
forms the cornerstone of our economy, in reality these comprise soft 
targets, which are highly vulnerable to a myriad of threats, ranging 
from physical acts of terrorism to electronic attacks on information 

The IT industry has recorded phenomenal growth in the last five years, 
especially software services, Information Technology Enabled Services 
(ITES) and the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector. While 
capitalizing on Indias geographic location (suitable time zone) and 
massive pool of skilled English speaking manpower, companies have struck 
innovative business outsourcing models to garner maximum profits. Robust 
ICT infrastructure

However, all this has been possible only in the backdrop of a robust 
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure. In the 
last decade or so, the government, public sector and private companies 
have seen tremendous opportunity in the sector and have accordingly 
invested large capital in building up suitable information 
infrastructure. This includes submarine undersea cables, satellite 
transponders or receivers, and massive on-ground, telecom and Internet 

As businesses grew, there were immense demands to expand the 
infrastructure, which were adequately met from time-to-time. However, we 
have become increasingly dependent on this infrastructure, and as a 
result, our vulnerabilities have also risen manifold. Today, we are 
highly vulnerable to any disruption, even if it is of a short-term 
nature, infrastructure and IT development notwithstanding.

The risk spectrum is extremely broad, ranging from non-state actors 
waging cyber-attacks, adversaries carrying out information warfare (IW) 
and deviant individuals wreaking havoc on the information superhighway 
with deadly electronic viruses and worms. It is not in the scope of this 
article to delve into the technicalities or details of these, however it 
is pertinent to note that the United States (US) which is the most wired 
nation in the world and thus most susceptible to IW has not experienced 
any major IW attack on its infrastructure.

Attend Black Hat USA, July 28-August 2 in Las Vegas, 
the world's premier technical event for ICT security 
experts. Featuring 30 hands-on training courses and 
90 Briefings presentations with lots of new content 
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