Securing cyberspace: Top experts brainstorm on strategies

18th Asian Security Conference

Cooperation, Competition and Conflict. These three Cs configure contemporary discussions on cyber security, which has climbed to the top of national security agenda of India and countries around the world.  

The 18th Asian Security Conference, hosted by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in New Delhi on February 9 underscored the importance of securing cyberspace and the challenges and opportunities arising from it. The three-day conference has brought together 30 speakers and exports from 17 countries from military, academia, think tanks, media and students. The theme of the conference this year was ‘Securing Cyberspace: Asian and International Perspectives’.  A host of challenges and opportunities facing the cyberspace area were discussed.

Jayant Prasad, Director General of IDSA, spoke about how the cyberspace was becoming increasingly vulnerable to attacks that can be fast, dangerous and disastrous. In the keynote address, Air Marshal P.P. Reddy emphasised that the cyberspace is as an arena of cooperation, competition as well conflict. He also spoke about how cyber technology has created new sources of power as well as vulnerabilities. Stressing that cyber security can no longer be treated separately from national security, Mr Reddy said: “Cyber security has become an integral part of National Security”.

Mr Reddy also spoke about how the India government has always stood for open, global and secure cyberspace. He elaborated on militaries adapting to the network-centric warfare in the increased threat of cyber attacks and made a strong case for the need to have a binding international regulatory mechanism for the cyberspace. There is no mutually agreed definition for cyber weapons, Mr Reddy said.  

The conference brought out a diversity of perspectives on cyber security issues. Amar Jaffri, a leading  expert on Pakistan’s cyber security issues, spoke about the use of cyberspace in Asian countries. He spoke about the use of cyberspace by criminals and terrorist organizations and focused on regional cooperation for securing cyberspace. He called for devising strategies to deal with traditional criminals joining hands with cyber criminals. He also spoke about an increase in  the  use of technologies increasing the ability of one to harm many. Mr Jaffri emphasised that the Stuxnet was the real game changer and how critical infrastructure was a big challenge.

Professor Varun Sahni of JNU underlined strategies of states trying to control new forms of territory as technology opens up new spaces. He also spoke about how cyberspace fundamentally challenges notions of exclusive jurisdiction that are inherent to traditional statehood.

Cuihong Cai, associate professor of international studies at Fudan University, said it is very difficult to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. She also drew a comparison between the cyber security environment between US and China.

Yasuaki Hashimoto, head of Government and Law at National Institute for Defence Studies focused on different aspects of Japan’s cyber security. Japan is one of the few countries in the world where the Ministry of Defense has its own Cyber Defence Unit.

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