In the darkened offices of a tech startup, a handful of computer engineers sift through a mountain of intelligence data that would normally be the work of a small army of Indian security agents. "We use artificial intelligence (AI) to look for patterns in the past to predict future behavior," Tarun Wig said as he explained why he hoped his company Innefu can do more business with India's government. "Cyber-warfare isn't a movie, it's happening right now... We lost out on the industrial revolution; we lost out on the defense revolution, let's not lose out in the cyber revolution."
While other countries have long relied on AI to gather intelligence, India, sometimes seemingly addicted to paperwork, has continued to use agents to eyeball reams of data gathered over the years. It is a process that sucks up time and can often miss crucial information. India has been in three wars with its neighbors since independence and the target of numerous cross-border attacks, including in 2008 when Pakistan-based extremists killed more than 160 people in Mumbai. Now the threat from cyberattacks is growing and its vulnerability has been exposed.
Some 22,000 pages of data related to submarines that a French government-owned company was building for the Indian navy was leaked to the media last year. Innefu got a foot in the lucrative business of government contracts after resolving a thorny test case for a law enforcement agency that wanted to determine the background to an incident along one of India's borders. The agency handed over two CDs with about 1,500 intelligence documents, including social media snippets, such as posts on planned protests.
Innefu had to train the machine to read the agency's language, including abbreviations, and then began extracting information on what happened, who were the main players and how they interacted with each other. Its newest offering Prophecy is modelled on products made by Palantir Technologies, a private security firm whose founders include Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and whose clientele include the CIA and FBI.
"Prophecy is like an octopus with multiple tentacles that pulls data from multiple places," Wig, the co-founder of Abhishek Sharma said. While the use of AI is commonplace elsewhere in Asia, it is still in its infancy in India.