The secret world of Espionage

At Present Scenario, most of the countries are willing to be included in the elite group of  superpower nations, which is tending them to Improve their Economic & military capabilities with an organized governance. In fact, developing Countries like India, Pakistan, Brazil, China & Iran are changing their foreign policies dramatically to cope with the developed ones. This entire thing motivates a nation to gather Intelligence on political, military, economic and scientific developments around the world which have direct bearing on its National Security and formulation of its foreign policies; and at this vantage point “The Secret World of ESPIONAGE” begins.

The term Espionage is nothing but SPYING which involves a government or individual to gather secret/classified information without the permission of the holder of the information.

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The Intelligence Agencies responsible for Analysis of Information, Covert Espionage operations and National Security are often considered as backbone of a country. In India the Intelligence agencies are sometimes referred as “The fifth Pillar of Democracy”. However, there is nothing democratic in such Agencies as they are more accountable to the government rather than the People, but overally they get a “good” remark.


The practice of Espionage in military and political affairs has been recognized from the beginning of written history. The Egyptians had a well-developed Secret Service group mentioned in the holy Bible. Writer S. B. Griffith described in his book “The Art of War” that from 500BC Chinese were also devoted to intelligence gathering to win wars. Similarly we can get the idea of ‘guptachars’ (secret agents) in the Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’ which is written around 400BC. British Spying chain during the period of Queen Elizabeth-II was also remarkable.

But The Practice of Spying became popular in modern era at the time of World War –I, Where all the super powers except the US had Intelligence wings in their Military Units. To protect the country from external agents the US passed Espionage Statute of 1917. By the preceding years Germany and Japan established their espionage net which was a big headache for the UK & US during World War - II.
Since World War II, espionage activity has enlarged considerably, much of it growing out of the cold war between the United States and the former USSR. Russia and the Soviet Union have had a long tradition of espionage ranging from the Czar's Okhrana to the Committee for State Security (the KGB), which also acted as a secret police force. In the United States the 1947 National Security Act created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to coordinate intelligence and the National Security Agency for research into codes and electronic communication.

In India, Intelligence Bureau (IB) is the first Espionage Agency Established on 1887 by the British Government and it is reputedly the world's oldest intelligence agency. After Independence the agency is being operated by the Indian government and was handling both Internal & External Intelligence of India until 1962 Sino-Indian War, where it was accused failure of intelligence and the demand for a Separate External Intelligence gathering agency increased. In 1968 the Indira Gandhi Government created an Agency called Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) which is solely responsible for overseas intelligence collection as well as performing covert operation with the Cooperation of Military Intelligence (MI). Apart from MI, RAW & IB India have several more Important Intelligence agencies like:

National Technical Research Organization:
NTRO develops technology capabilities in aviation and remote sensing, data gathering and processing, cyber security, cryptology systems, strategic hardware and software development and strategic monitoring.

Joint Cipher Bureau:
It is responsible for cryptanalysis and encryption of sensitive data.

Central Bureau of Investigation:
The CBI is responsible for investigating Criminal and Economical Conspiracy cases. CBI also represents India to the InterPol.

All India Radio Monitoring Service:
This agency monitors radio broadcasts in India as well as foreign radio signals which can be received in India.

Directorate of Air Intelligence:
The DAI is responsible for air and satellite reconnaissance missions.

Directorate of Navy Intelligence:
This is Indian Navy’s Intelligence Arm.

Defense Intelligence Agency:
DIA has control of Indian Army's prized technical intelligence assets – the Directorate of Signals Intelligence and the Defense Image Processing and Analysis Center (DIPAC). While the Signals Directorate is responsible for acquiring and decrypting enemy communications, the DIPAC controls India's satellite-based image acquisition capabilities. The DIA also controls the Defense Information Warfare Agency (DIWA) which handles all elements of the information warfare repertoire, including psychological operations, cyber-war, electronic intercepts and the monitoring of sound waves.

National Investigation Agency:
The NIA is a federal agency formed after 26/11 attack on Mumbai to handle country wide investigation on Terrorism.

Espionage at present:

The Art of Spying is different now. It’s not like the traditional system of monitoring Enemy’s Radio frequencies nor using sonars to detect anonymous submarines, not either making secret Dead Drops & Safe Houses for concealing an agent’s identity. This is an era of technologically obsessed world and Computer networking technology has blurred the boundaries between cyber warfare, cybercrime, and cyber terrorism. These are the matter of concern for countries having nuclear and Space war cells.
Computer & Satellite based surveillance is increasing day by day ;helping Intelligence Agencies to locate Criminals , Terrorists and gather Intelligence. The Most frequent example could be taken here is USA’s Artificial Intelligence Programs like PRISM & ECHELON which gathers Information by monitoring Telephone Conversation, Internet logs , social networking sites, emails and CCTV footage, combine and stores all the meta data and helps the agencies like NSA to find specific evidence on a victim. This type of Surveillance is referred as Smart grid. Like USA the other Super powers China, Russia, UK and France also have their own Smart Grids. Indian Government with the collaboration of NTRO, DIA & RAW working on a similar project named NAT GRID.

Like the two faces of a coin, a country has also two ways for National security. On the first face they are enhancing their battle skills, purchasing latest weapons, increasing their nuclear warheads, investing on research & development, enriching their technology. On the other face there is chance of being eavesdropped by their competitors and the fear of revelation of their classified Information, leading them to delve into “Cyber espionage”.

Cyber Espionage & its Impact on World:

Cyber espionage involves the unauthorized probing to test a target computer’s configuration or evaluate its system defenses, or the unauthorized viewing and copying of data files. However, should a terrorist group, nation, or other organization use computer hacking techniques for political or economic motives, their deliberate intrusions may also qualify them, additionally, as cyber criminals.

After the revelation by Edward Snowden about United States’ Global Surveillance Apparatus and the PRISM program, it’s clear that Cyber Espionage plays a vital role in USA’s development and policy making. He also revealed that a program made by NSA called “MUSCULAR” allows the government to hack into the Data centres of Google & Yahoo to collect information from millions of users Worldwide.

It’s not only the USA; many other countries had also started Cyber-Espionage. North Korea, which was recently on controversy over several back to back nuclear tests have also a well-developed Cyber Espionage wing and was accused of spying on sensitive information by non-other than its neighbouring enemy South-Korea. As reported in 2013 July, ‘Chinese people’s liberation Army’ a Chinese Cyber-espionage group is rapidly attacking on Servers of US based firms to debase their Economy. The Stuxnet code, the cyber espionage alleged to originate in China, and the attacks to Estonia and Georgia have been widely reported as examples of cybeterrorism and possible acts of cyberwar .Some nations are mutually participating in Cyber-Espionage like the ‘FIVE EYES’ alliance where the United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia & New Zealand under the UKUSA agreement have multilateral agreement for cooperation of Signal Intelligence. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida are using cyber espionage to take control over mainframe computers of target nations.

World leaders are now demanding special treaty on Cyber Espionage to prevent other countries cyber-attack. Anyway, we know the fact that there are no special law for Cyber Espionage in any country. All the cyber Espionage criminals are either trailed under Cyber-Crime of Cyber-War act; So Immediate reform of law is required.

Cyber Espionage & India:

There are many successful Covert operations made by our intelligence agencies in the past. India’s RAW has the Second largest Human Intelligence (HUINT) network around the world. But when it comes to cyber espionage India is a prime victim. Enemy countries like China & Pakistan as well as USA are focused on stealing data on space research, nanotechnology, energy production, nuclear power, communications, medicine formula and laser technology from India.
So question arises here,

Are we Ready to fight the war on Cyber Espionage?
Cyber intelligence is one of the main tasks of NTRO which was set up in 2004 on the recommendation of the Kargil Review Committee under PMO. Out of the total ₹ 1,800 crore budget, its cyber security unit has an annual allocation of ₹ 300 crore. It has 200 men whose job is to protect critical cyber infrastructure, cyber patrolling to check for any inflammatory content inimical to national interest, Internet monitoring to generate intelligence, and cyber offensive to carry out attacks against the enemy. "It has failed on all fronts. Earlier, when the computers in the PMO and Indian foreign missions were attacked by Chinese hackers, NTRO could do nothing, "Ever since the world learned that almost nothing is unhackable, more and more organizations turn to old-school methods to protect themselves against cyber espionage. Now, the Indian High Commission in London has started using typewriters to write sensitive documents.”

What shall we conclude here? Does India always plays defensive? Will India ever be offensive in Cyber-Espionage?
We cannot completely deny that Indian Government is not offensive in cyber-espionage to its enemy countries. Last year India was criticized by the world on the ‘Telenor’ cyber-espionage operation. Telenor a Norwegian based Telecommunication Company was targeting certain politic, government & business organizations in past three year with an origin of hackers from India. But there is not enough evidence of Indian government’s involvement in this case. Now, some reports say that Indian government is outsourcing & Hiring Organizations of hackers rather than involving government agencies for its cyber espionage missions across the world. So, as a citizen of India We should not oppose our government’s offensive cyber-attack until it matters to our own privacy & security.

Organisational Structure:

An Intelligence Agency have many posts and designations, they are categorized in 3 levels:

1. Secretarial level: Secretary/ Additional Secretary/ Director / Additional Director
2. Analyst level: Central Intelligence officer / Asst. CIO / Junior CIO
3. Field level: Senior field officer/ field Officer/ Deputy & Asst. Field Officer

· Every officer at analyst level has their own team who performs their separate task.
· Field level officers have their official and non-official Hired Agents sponsored by the government.

In India most of the higher level staffs are recruited from IAS & IPS. And the lower level Staffs are chosen on deputation from Arm forces (Army, Navy, Air force), Special Forces (Para commando, National Security Guard, Marine Commando ) and police forces etc.
Our Intelligence Agency RAW is organized in such a way that it only reports to the Prime Minister of India.


It’s really sound worst that nations spying on each other. But Sometimes Espionage becomes necessary protect the country and in other hand achieve Intelligence of the world to detect threat and to recognize the real enemy. In most of the countries the Annual Budget of an Intelligence Agency are classified and they are not accountable to the people. So they are more vulnerable to the curse of corruption and there is a possibility of misuse.
In my view,
“Intelligence Agencies are the backbone of a Country and
Espionage has the ability to stop a war as well the trigger to initiate a war.”
But never the less, they allow us to stand confident & exist as powerful Independent nation.

Balgopal Mishra 
Founder, Delve India

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