Honey Traps Go Digital: India's AI Chatbot Battles Virtual Espionage

By Girish Linganna

Feb 22: The Indian military has introduced a sophisticated AI chatbot designed to evaluate soldiers' susceptibility to online honey traps. This development adds a new dimension to the idea of 'virtual warfare' by focusing on the training implications for troops in dealing with honey-trapping tactics.

The Indian Army has started using a new AI chatbot to talk with soldiers and see how easily they might fall for online traps. This is a big change in how warfare is thought about, making the area of virtual warfare much broader.

What is Honey Trapping ?

Honey trapping is a strategy where someone creates a fake romantic or personal relationship to gain trust and then extract confidential information or influence someone for espionage or other malicious purposes.

Looking back at a notable event from last year, a suspected female spy from Pakistan, pretending to be a friendly contact, was able to get secret information from a well-known DRDO scientist. She managed to get information from a preliminary design report that included details about every version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

Creating Reality: The Functioning of India's Latest AI Chatbot

The AI chat box is carefully designed, analyzing many profiles to improve. It uses machine learning to adjust its questions and conversations to better suit people of certain ages and backgrounds, said a military officer to Sputnik media house, wishing to remain anonymous.

This process of making things more specific is similar to how websites like YouTube or Google show you content and ads that match what you like, he added.

"The AI chatbot cleverly focuses on things like being away from family, being single, or the distinct way of life of military officers. It acts as a thorough training tool, realistically examining how different people can have weaknesses and vulnerabilities, making it a useful way to train soldiers," the officer finished.

Origins of Digital Conflict & the Importance of Investigating Ageless War Tactics

The idea of virtual conflict has been around for a very long time. It involves operations aimed at influencing the thoughts of opposing soldiers and operations focused on collecting intelligence about the enemy. The goal of warfare, as Sun Tzu, a Chinese general and strategist, suggested, is to demoralize the enemy without direct conflict, explained Maj Gen (Dr) Pawan Anand, AVSM (Retd), Director of the USI Centre for Atma Nirbhar Bharat, to the press.

The AI system helps the spy by offering voice options and pictures that match what the target likes, slowly getting more information from them. This gentle method of gathering information can sometimes move into real life, leading to meetings or taking bribes, and might turn into a more serious situation, the General explained.

According to Anand, the real-life effects can be broken down into two or three main areas. First, when something like the incident with the DRDO Scientist and Pakistani Spy happens, it causes a big loss to the country. Second, it also affects the person involved, hurting their reputation and often causing problems with their family.

Protecting Military Personnel Information: Urging Strong Actions to Prevent Possible Abuse

"Maj Gen (Dr) Anand argued that when trust in a trained individual is lost, the organization misses out on the contributions of a highly skilled person who cannot be trusted with the same level of responsibility as before."

He mentioned that "India is using an AI bot to learn about the personal preferences of its soldiers, which provides useful information. Yet, this information could become a risk if it gets into the wrong hands and is used against the soldiers."

To tackle this issue, "it's important to keep soldier data anonymous at the personal level and put strong protection in place. Without these precautions, losing this data could harm both the country and the people involved."

(The author Girish Linganna of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at: girishlinganna@gmail.com)

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