Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel have started to train for cyber warfare or fifth generation warfare as they call it. The cyber cell of the Air Force is conducting various short term courses including one on ethical hacking at the IAF’s Bangalore-based training command.

A source told this newspaper, “This training began three-four months ago and personnel from all departments and ranks are part of it. This will equip the IAF personnel on cyber-security and intelligence. For reasons of security it is being imparted by IAF personnel.” The first batch consists of around 25-30 personnel.

Earlier this month National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon said that cybercrime was discussed in detail with the security advisers of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries during the BRICS-NSA meet held in Delhi, thereby indicating how important cyber warfare and crime had become to the security apparatus.

In early 2010 there were reports about some computers in IAF bases like the Delhi-based Race Course (opposite the Prime Minister’s residence) and two more outside Delhi, being compromised by Chinese hackers. To look into it, the IAF decided to call in two Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to hack into its systems to expose the loopholes required to be plugged.

It was at this time that the IAF decided to take tough steps, even though operational plans were not digitised in the services. With systems having at least three firewalls and algorithms in place in the IAF, breaking through may not be easy for hackers, said a source.

In 2006 Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) devised the largest online network with 166 nodes, for logistical duties, all over the country, called Integrated Materials Management Online Services (IMMOLS) for the IAF. IAF has its own Software Development Institute (SDI) in Bangalore, which produces software for IAF’s in-house functioning.

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