India’s Digital Terrorism Preparedness

Digital Terrorism or Cyber terrorism is a new breed of terrorism which has gained significant relevance in today’s computer-dependent society. It can sabotage critical information networks of a country to intimidate or coerce a government for furthering some hidden social or political aim. The victims are usually non-combatant targets. It is thus directed to cripple the information and telecommunication networks of a country. The term “digital terrorism” has come to overlap cybercrime, cyber war and other forms of terrorism.


It is growing threat to nations as it can lead to major economic and infrastructural attack and cripple the world. There are also mounting security concerns as digital weapons can jeopardise the security system of the attacked nation. The major concerns are:

  • Sabotage of financial and economic infrastructure
  • Hacking of National Security apparatus
  • Potential threat to Nuclear capabilities
  • Threat to Research facilities
  • Website defacement and denial of access/service

Irritants in response to the attack

The most difficult part of dealing with a cyber attack is the assessment of damage caused to national interests, the potential after-effects and finally the legal options at hand in case of an anonymous culprit.

  • Assigning of responsibility and an immediate response like a counter-attack are gravely absent in case of any disruptive cyber activity.
  • The increasing use of proxy servers makes it extremely difficult to get to the real origins of the attack. E.g. a group of cyber terrorists under the shadow name of Cyber Caliphate had taken French TV-TV5 Monde off-air. The group claimed to be cyber wing of ISIS. However, it was later discovered that it was a pro-Russian group and the attack was state-sponsored with no relation to Islamic State.
  • Impact assessment is another grey area as most nations have a dearth of expertise to scale the extent of damage caused.
  • The state needs to have apt and well-defined diplomatic, financial and other harsher responses which may go beyond the cyber world as a counter measure. This forms the most difficult part of the whole process as the state cannot transcend the realms of international law.

Discussion: Indian preparedness

Indian establishment apparently lacks in adequate preparations to deal with any massive cyber attack. The National Cyber Coordination Centre is still in planning phase. There is absence of policy and legal options to deal with such situations. The strikingly low level of internet penetration is the only positive as this limits the potential extent of damage. Latter may be a severe lacuna on growth front but is highly beneficial in terms of national cyber security. The Digital India campaign is slated to bring more and more Indians under digital umbrella but the government needs to make huge investments to ensure cyber security. The NCCC if approved will take a year to become fully functional and that span is critical as the content will be flowing without many checks in place. The National Technical Research Organisation which works under the National Security Advisor has been dealing on this front since 2004.

India needs more robust infrastructure and policies to be able to combat any cyber attack and give an appropriate response when any major attack takes place.

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