Is India's S-400 compromised? Here is what experts say on China's cyber threat

The Indian military is preparing itself for the induction of its first unit of S-400 air defense system. However, things are not looking good as threats of possible hacking of S-400 by the Chinese forces cannot be overlooked.

By Harkirpal Singh, Updated : Mar 04, 2021 17:07 IST
Is India's S-400 compromised? Here is what experts say on China's cyber threat
China has the capablity to hack S-400 defense system

In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defense missile systems, S-400 has the capability to strike its target up to 400km & this system will certainly pose a major threat to enemy airforces which may try to cross Indian Airspace. 

However, a new threat has emerged from across the border as it has been recently reported that China launched a cyber attack targeting a power grid in Mumbai which led to a power outage. 

In the context of the above-mentioned incident, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday played up the risk of Chinese cyberattack and linked it to a key issue that he has raised repeatedly: India's purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia.

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Swamy tweeted, "After getting a taste of the damage China can do by cyber war, can we rely on S-400 anti-aircraft weapon? China can make it fizzle." The statement "China can make it fizzle" appeared to mean the possibility of China hacking into the S-400 system to render it ineffective.

Swamy has been a critic of the S-400 purchase. The Narendra Modi government signed a deal worth over $5 billion in 2018 to buy the S-400, which combines radars, control equipment, and multiple types of surface-to-air missiles of varying ranges to shoot down practically any aerial target—aircraft, drones, bombs, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.

China was the first export customer of the S-400. In December 2019, Swamy had warned the presence of Chinese electronics would make the missile system "compromised" in a war with Pakistan. In June 2020, Swamy warned the Modi government "would be well-advised not to use S-400 in a possible battle with China. This is because S-400 is made with Chinese electronics".

In January this year, Swamy warned that going ahead with the S-400 deal would turn out to be a blunder by the Modi government.

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While Swamy's views on the S-400 may be interpreted by some as alarmist, China does supply a wide range of electronic components used for aerospace programs worldwide. Such components could potentially be used as means for implanting malware and tracking and espionage systems.

Moreover, western experts have previously warned the S-400's sensors could pick up classified information of sensitive systems such as the F-35 stealth fighter. This has been among the reasons cited by the US for its continued opposition to Turkey and India buying the S-400 missile system.  

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