In 2004, a young Major in the military intelligence took along a senior officer to an internet café in Delhi. The senior officer, who was about to be promoted to the rank of Colonel, was not too familiar with the world of information technology—an e-illiterate.
The youngster keyed in fast and showed his boss how he had hacked into all 25 systems of the café and was able to see what others were watching or chatting.
This was how the Army or the military intelligence corps started realising the need for hackers, an Army Intelligence official told THE WEEK.
Around the same time, the Chinese and Pakistani hacker groups started to attack the Indian networks and several attempts were made to steal classified information from military installations.
By 2008-09, detachments were created in the Army under the Corps of Signal for launching counter-offensives but they were not proving to be as useful as the force wanted them to be, sources said.
So, the Army created two separate units under the military intelligence corps and staffed by signal officers to launch cyberwarfare against Pakistan and China.
"One unit—Inter Field Surveillance Unit (IFSU)—has been created under the Army Headquarters near Delhi while the other one has been raised in the northeastern sector," the sources revealed to THE WEEK.
Young tech geeks wearing olive greens comprise the staff of these units, they said. The officers not only thwart attacks on Indian systems but have also been able to enter the systems of adversaries, the sources revealed.
The officers said the units were successful in penetrating the personal systems of an adversarial intelligence agency and were able to monitor the activities of that particular agency for a long period.
The two units have been involved in counter-hacking operations and have also helped in nabbing or locating hackers both in India and abroad.
However, when asked for comments on the existence of the units, a Colonel-rank officer of the Army Director General for Public Information said, "Organisation, designations and functions of military intelligence units cannot be shared with the public or media."