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Navy to have cyber sea warriors

 After robust sea, air and underwater combat arms, the Navy now wants a dedicated force for the virtual front as well. The force has begun the process to recruit information technology (IT) engineers and graduates as short-service commissioned officers.

The Navy's drive to induct IT officers, as part of its main executive branch, comes in the backdrop of cyber warfare emerging as a potentially crippling form of waging covert wars as well as Chinese and Pakistani online espionage agents continuing with their incessant attempts to hack into Indian computer networks. All combat operations are now becoming network-driven.

The aim is to create a specialist cadre of creators, custodians and administrators of our various networks on warships as well as ashore installations,'' said a senior officer. Towards this end, applications have been invited from B.Tech and M.Tech (computer sciences), BSc and MSc (IT/computer science), and BCA and MCA graduates for a course beginning in the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala (Kerala) from December.

As earlier reported by TOI, the Navy has already embarked on the path to ensure all its new officers have B.Tech degrees because of the unprecedented expansion in warship technology. With a dedicated surveillance and communications satellite in the pipeline, the force will soon network all its warships, submarines and aircraft with operational centres ashore through high-speed data-links. On the cyber front, like the other services, the Navy has also been facing mounting cyber-attacks in recent years.

With cyber-warfare being a top military priority for China, its online espionage agents have been found to be frequently breaking into sensitive Indian computer networks to access classified operational data. Five to six naval officers, incidentally, are currently facing a board of inquiry (BoI) after Chinese hackers were recently detected to have broken into sensitive naval computers, in and around Eastern Navy Command HQs at Visakhapatnam, with the help of worm-infected'' pen-drives.

Another BoI in the Mumbai-based Western Navy Command has recommended stringent action, including dismissal of service, against at least two commanders for posting confidential information and data, including location of warships and their patrolling patterns, on social networking sites like Facebook.