Pakistan has been fighting war on terror after 9/11 and stood at forefront with its allies in eliminating the extremism from the country. But it comes with no astonishment that external as well as internal proxy wars damaged the country more than any other threat. There is also no denying of the fact that Pakistan remained successful and capable enough to take control of external actors playing in the country. However, the pronged war Pakistan is being put into, at various fronts today is actually weakening the country’s ability to focus on its strategic role in the region.
Indian violation of Pakistan’s airspace puts forth a mark on the international rules but how about the complete compromise of Pakistan’s air force network systems? The International media confirmed the cyber attacks on Pakistan’s air force networks resulting in the complete compromise last year. More appropriately, it’s the critical infrastructure’s security which was damaged. The government announced no clarification about the incident.
In cyber terms, the incident may be considered a full-fledged failure on the part of military cyber space capabilities.
In this modern technological age, violating air space or violating cyber space cannot be taken on same grounds. The boundaries of every nation are defined under International laws but what about the cyber space? Cyber space has no boundaries and has no rules. In cyber space, violation is not the point of contest; protecting critical infrastructure becomes the national security threat which needs to be mitigated with complete pro-active cyber capabilities.
The state-backed non-state-cyber-actors are continuously trying to penetrate into Pakistani systems and the cyber vulnerabilities have no end. On one hand, USA has announced to go offensive in cyber space and on the other hand, the basic awareness of cyber security lacks from the policy making offices in the country. The recent cyber attacks on the websites of various Pakistan ministries including MOFA and Pakistan Army website is another grave example of a cyber-attack by the adversaries.
It is pertinent to mention here that in today’s war games, cyber space is being used as the force multiplier as it is used to multiply the damages otherwise earned by the traditional war. These damages used to be the loss of men and material in previous wars but today damages are very well defined as the reputation loss and defamation which requires decades to recover.
Pakistan’s cyber front is continuously being attacked leaving irreparable loss. It is not only today’s need to first realize the gravity of cyber threat and then focus with full force to mitigate it but also it is the matter of strategy not weaponry. This is the time to change the wish-list into a reality when Pakistan develops the cyberspace operations capability and can protect its own Critical Infrastructure. In this peek-a-boo cyber war, the triumph belongs to the pro-active actor having two-pronged technological approach not only to protect one’s own critical infrastructure, and defend it but also having enough capability to conduct cyber warfare operation whenever required.
*Zaheema Iqbal, Director R&D at Strategic Warfare Group. Her areas of expertise are cyber warfare, cyber security, cyber terrorism, cyber threats, regional security, maritime security, and non-traditional security threats. She can be reached at [email protected]