Its India vs. Pakistan in cyberspace

After Pulwama attack, a lot of things happened which changed the dynamics of the Indo-Pak relationship. Most of the events related to diplomacy, battlefield, and economics. Cyberwar is something new. Hackers from Pakistan attacked over 90 Indian government websites and critical systems within hours of the Pulwama suicide strike by a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist.

The attacks were so ferocious that India has to turn offensive. The attackers were not able to breach firewalls and protective measures of critical systems. Financial systems and power grid management ones were specially targeted.

Interestingly, the attacks on the Indian networks came from Bangladesh – a country that is friendly to India. “The coordinated manner in which the attacks were carried out and the use of facilities in Bangladesh leaves us with no doubt about the nature of the attack,” an official said.

As the government became aware of the hacking attacks, the attackers tried another approach. They tried their luck on social media in the form of rumors, fake news, photoshopped images, etc. For instance, a photoshopped image of the mastermind behind the Pulwama attack, Kamran, did rounds on the internet. Another example is that a day after India’s strike on a Jaish camp in Pakistan, and on the same day as Pakistan’s attempted counter-strike, social media buzzed with the alleged sacking of Commander-in-Chief of the Western Air Command Air Marshal C Hari Kumar. Even as this was dying down, another rumor surfaced, talking of huge casualties to Indian forces in Rajouri.

After successive waves of attacks were thwarted, the government advised all departments to not violate “Standard Operating Procedures” and be on the alert. The exact nature and extent of India’s offensive operation, and the agencies behind this aren’t known, and none of the officials would elaborate on this point.

“Offensive capabilities did help India get a grip of the situation. There was damage in Pakistan too,” said a cybersecurity professional working in the private sector, and who advises the government.

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