Sunday, May 28, 2017

‘Sukhoi likely downed by cyber weapons’

Analysts based in the vicinity of New York and St Petersburg warn that the loss, days ago, of an advanced and mechanically certified as safe, Sukhoi 30 fighter aircraft, close to the border with China may be the result of “cyber-interference with the onboard computers” in the cockpit.
This may explain why even the pilots may have found it difficult to activate safety ejection mechanisms, once it became obvious that the aircraft was in serious trouble, as such mechanisms too could have been crippled by computer malfunctions induced from an outside source. They point to the apparent loss of five Army vehicles, “due (according to the authorities) to a misfired mortar strike” in the same zone, saying that a single mortar round would not have enough firepower to take out such a large number of vehicles. They add that the possibilities are that the damage may have been caused by a larger projectile guided by electronic systems that may have been interfered with during flight.
Given the range and complexity of cyber interference, the source of the attack could have been from thousands of kilometres or from only a few hundred metres away. These analysts warn that although India spends over Rs 200,000 crore on defence through the armed forces and another Rs 100,000 crore on security via police units, hardly Rs 4,700 crore gets spent on cyber capability. The analysts spoken to point out that almost all this gets expended on foreign vendors, rather than domestic producers. However, this reliance on foreign shores for defence and security is across the board, so far as capital expenditure is concerned, in contrast to China, which has almost entirely indigenised its capabilities over the past 15 years.
The international analysts spoken to, who are based in Russia and the United States, two of the four giants in the cyber field (the others being Israel and China), point to the devastating effect of the lightning shutdown of the Northern Power Grid on two separate occasions in August 2012. These were attributed by authorities to an “overdrawing” of power by Uttar Pradesh, omitting to consider the fact that such excess power consumption is routine, and that in the past, UP had withdrawn far more electricity from the grid than had been the case when it tripped. They say that it is probable that a cyber-related malfunction of a key gauge may have occurred, leading to the breakdown in supplies. It is pertinent to recall (to illustrate cyber capabilities) that it was at that time that the US and Israel introduced Stuxnet into even non-internet related control systems in the nuclear industry in Iran. As a consequence, the nuclear process gauges showed acceptable speeds, even while remote commands raised the speed of certain processes to unsafe levels, thereby leading to a shutdown in operations. Of course, they add that it is “next to impossible” that either the US or Israel were behind the Northern Grid power outage, although both have the capability to inflict such damage on essential civilian infrastructure, and that the Stuxnet example was only given as an illustration of the lethality of cyber weaponry.
27/05/17 Madhav Nalapat/Sunday Guardian Live