National Seminar on
Cyber Terrorism, Social Media and National Security
Association of Asia Scholars in collaboration with the University of Allahabad had organized a national seminar on “Cyber Terrorism, Social Media and National Security” in November 16-17, 2013 at the university campus. The seminar was attended by eminent personalities belonging to academia, bureaucracy, media and military professionals. A total of 16 presentations were made on a wide range of issues relating to the seminar theme, besides fruitful deliberations that ensued with each of them. The seminar theme gained prominence in the background of new security threats emanating from the cyberspace and its implications on India’s national security. The seminar was sponsored by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi.
Inaugurating the seminar, Mr. Avadesh B. Mathur, United Nations’ Regional Representative, Kosovo, underscored the new dimensions of security that have been emerging in the era of globalisation and information revolution. With threats becoming more diffused and multilayered, he argued that states have to grapple with these new threats in rather unconventional ways than by relying solely on segregated national security strategies. Lt. Gen. A.K Sahni, in his keynote address, pointed out the major threats that India confronts in the present and foreseeable future. He stated that our neighbourhood, particularly Pakistan and China, harbour destabilising elements that spread terrorism in the country and India’s response, both politically and militarily, have been rather meek. Delivering the Presidential Address, Justice Sunil Ambwani of the Allahabad High Court highlighted the legal deficiencies in regulating the new cyberspace. He opined that the Information Technology Act of 2008 is incommensurate in tackling the variegated threats emanating in the cyberspace, and Indian courts are technically and technologically handicapped in adjudicating cyber domain disputes.
The first technical session was held on the sub-theme “Cyber Terrorism: Issues and Dimensions” and was chaired by AVM Kapil Kak. Prof. Swaran Singh of JNU, New Delhi, set the motion by outlining the essential constituents of cyber terrorism, the contestations in conceptual definitions and the consequent dilemmas in response mechanisms. Cyber terrorism, as Prof. Singh put it, has to be located in the changing genres of terrorism, which itself has transformed phenomenally in the globalised world. The principal challenge for states and societies in confronting cyber terrorism lay in striking a balance between national security and individual liberty, as cyberspace has definitely been a democratizing force.
Prof. Gopal Ji Malviya of Madras University, Chennai, in his presentation described the quantum of cyber terrorism threat that India confronts in the form of hacking, web defacement, and threats to critical infrastructure, while Gp. Capt. R.K Singh of USI, New Delhi, outlined the various institutional mechanisms that India has developed in confronting cyber terrorism. Brig. (Retd.) Rajeev K. Bhutani brought a comparative perspective on how different countries have tackled cyber terrorism and the lessons that India should learn from them.
The second technical session was based on the sub-theme “Social Media: Ethics and its Impact on Society” and was chaired by Prof. Ram Sharan Joshi. Expressing deep concern over the deteriorating standards of the media, Prof. Hemant Joshi of IIMC, New Delhi, attributed the cause to the increasing corporatization of Indian media, wherein commercial interests have overridden objective, ethical standards. Gp. Capt. Ashutosh K. Agarwal made a presentation on how Maoist insurgents have been successful in exploiting the social media through the platforms of blogs, Facebook etc. to malign the state as well as to build propaganda over their issues. Dr. Madhu Chopra of Kurukshetra University analyzed the recent developments in India’s cyber security strategy with focus on the new cyber security policy.
The third technical session was based on the sub-theme “Linkages between Cyber Terrorism and National Security” and was chaired by Prof. R. N Swarup of Madras University, Chennai. Delivering the keynote address, AVM Kapil Kak, highlighted the capabilities of Indian armed forces, especially the Indian Navy in confronting the new non-traditional security threats. He was sanguine that in due time India would develop its own military response to combat cyber warfare and appreciated the efforts made in the direction of establishing an Indian Cyber Command. Prof. Rajendra Prasad of Gorakhpur University pointed out the essentiality of integrating a public-private partnership model in comprehensively strengthening India’s cyber security preparedness, while Prof. K.S Siddhu of Panjabi University, Chandigarh explained the constraints imposed by peculiar characteristics of cyberspace like anonymity, difficulty in threat prediction etc. in securing its domain. Prof. Karori Singh of Rajasthan University, Jaipur made a presentation on a case study on smuggling activities on the western border of India and the role of cyberspace medium in facilitating it.
On day two, the fourth technical session was held on the sub-theme “Social Media and Mass Awakening: Its Impact on National Security” and was chaired by Prof. Swaran Singh. Gp. Capt. Ajey Lele of IDSA, New Delhi, analysed the impact of social media on society by citing the examples of popular revolutions that overthrew regimes in the Middle East in recent times. He argued that social media is a double edged weapon which can be used for both progressive and nefarious purposes, as seen in the Muzzafarnagar riots, and the need of the hour is to bring credibility and transparency in the conduct of social media. Senior journalist Ram Sharan Joshi pointed out how the social media has been engulfed by capitalist interests and their lasting impact on social values of the current younger generations. Dr. Nitin Pangotra and Ms. Sarita Brara of Kurukshetra University made presentations on the technical dimensions of cyber terrorism.
The valedictory session was addressed by Maj. Gen. Bishambhar Dayal and Prof. M. M Pant of IGNOU. They emphasised the need to conduct more public deliberations on such hot topics like cyber terrorism as there are diversified stakeholders and appreciated the initiative undertaken by the seminar organizers in this regard.