Last week, Chatham House organised a one-day conference, "Making the Connection: The Future of Cyber and Space," identifying trends and developments in cyber and space technology, weigh the risks posed by
dependence with the broader social benefits, assess implications for national and international security, examine the role of the public and private sector in mitigating threats and building resilience, and finally, discuss national and international policy approaches.
Space and cyber security challenges are generally considered the emerging frontiers in our security discourse although the reality is that they present clear and present danger to India and the rest of the world already. While the challenges are known and acknowledged by states, the difficulty has been the lack of an agreed approach in addressing these challenges. Therefore, unlike in the nuclear arena, space and cyber continue to be driven by certain broad definitional understanding without specific guidelines and norms on permissible activities or capabilities that will ensure the long-term sustainability of outer and cyber space. Therefore, the need to define and communicate clear boundaries at all the different levels while developing certain norms of responsible behavior are essential steps in securing the both the outer space and cyber domain.
On the outer space domain, even as India continues with the official stance of non-weaponisation of outer space, the fact remains that China’s ASAT test has upped the ante and stirred a new debate in the Indian establishment about the need for ASAT capabilities as well as other potential applications in the military domain. However, there is continuity in the official policy of India, which is prevention of weaponisation of outer space while strengthening arms control measures in space.
On cyber security, India’s policy approach is guided by two drivers of national security and social harmony. Although India’s policy approach used to be driven primarily by the former concern, given the large number of hacking and jamming-related incidents in India or Indian missions abroad. Lately, the debate has shifted to one with a greater emphasis on social cohesion, which has resulted in stricter monitoring and surveillance of internet and social media activities.
Meanwhile, India has not yet given serious attention to the issue of cyber-linked attack on outer space. Given that satellite communication networks are connected to the internet, the vulnerabilities of the space sector using cyber means have increased exponentially. Under this scenario, the theatre of conflict, means and impact are going to be felt across the domains. What was once possible by states that had hi-tech capabilities, today this is in the realm of possibilities to any cyber-savvy hacker. The threat is not simply destruction or damage of satellites but much beyond including deny or counterfeit satellite transmissions, access and leak data collected by sensors, send in wrong data among other things.
The convergence of space and cyber domains present a complex challenge. Given this cross-domain nature of challenges in the space and cyber domains, states have to invest in regional and global efforts to understand these environments on a real time basis.
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