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Rising up to Cyber Security Challenges

  • 27 Feb 2023
  • 11 min read

This editorial is based on “Cyberattacks are rising, but there is an ideal patch” which was published in the Hindu on 25/02/2023. It highlights the challenges posed by cyber threats while also envisaging greater role by India for consensus on Cyber security through G20 Presidency.

For Prelims: Cyber security, Ransomware, Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), Cyber Surakshit Bharat, Cyber Swachhta Kendra, National Cyber security Coordination Centre (NCCC), Draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022, G20

For Mains: Recent Instances of Cyber Attacks in India, Major Types of Cyber Threats, Challenges Related to India’s Cyberspace.

The past few incidents have highlighted the vulnerabilities of our fast-expanding digital networks. The first one targeted the servers of India's All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), compromising around 40 million health records and causing a two-week-long system outage.

Another attack involved a ransomware group, BlackCat, breaching the parent company of Solar Industries Limited, a Ministry of Defence ammunition and explosives manufacturer, and stealing over 2 Terabytes of data.

These incidents highlight the urgent need for increased cybersecurity measures to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.

What are the Challenges related to Cyber Security?

  • Recent Cyber Attacks:
    • Ransomware attacks are becoming more frequent and costly, with over 75% of Indian organizations having faced such attacks and each breach costing an average of ₹35 crore of damage.
  • Vulnerability of Critical Infrastructure:
    • The lines between the physical and digital realms are blurring rapidly, making Critical infrastructure extremely vulnerable to attacks from hostile state and non-state actors.
    • Cyber capabilities can be used to undermine critical infrastructure, industry, and security, as seen in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine where electronic systems in warheads, radars, and communication devices have reportedly been rendered ineffective using hacking and GPS jamming.
  • Under-Preparedness:
    • CERT-In has introduced guidelines for organizations to comply with when connected to the digital realm, but most organizations lack the tools to identify and prevent cyberattacks.
    • Also, there is an acute scarcity of cybersecurity professionals in India.
  • Limited Private Sector Participation:
    • Private sector participation remains limited in India's cybersecurity structures, and collaboration with like-minded intergovernmental and state frameworks is necessary to protect users and customers from cyber breaches.
  • Added Complexity:

What are the Initiatives Regarding Cyber Security?

  • Global Initiatives:
    • Budapest Convention on Cybercrime: It is an international treaty that seeks to address Internet and computer crime by harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among nations. It came into force on 1st July 2004. India is not a signatory to this convention.
    • Internet Governance Forum (IGF): It brings together all stakeholders i.e., government, private sector and civil society on the Internet governance debate.
    • UNGA Resolutions: The United Nations General Assembly established two processes on the issues of security in the information and communication technologies (ICT) environment.
      • The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) through resolution by Russia
      • The Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) through resolution by USA
  • Indian Initiatives:
    • National Cyber Security Strategy 2020: It seeks to improve cyber awareness and cybersecurity through more stringent audits. Empanelled cyber auditors will look more carefully at the security features of organisations than are legally necessary now.
    • National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC): The NCIIPC, created under Information Technology Act, 2000, operates as the nodal agency for protection and resilience of critical information infrastructure
    • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C): It was setup in 2020 to deal with all types of cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
    • Cyber Surakshit Bharat Initiative: It was launched in 2018 with an aim to spread awareness about cybercrime and building capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across all government departments.
    • Cyber Swachhta Kendra: In 2017, this platform was introduced for internet users to clean their computers and devices by wiping out viruses and malware.
    • Information Technology Act, 2000: The Act regulates use of computers, computer systems, computer networks and also data and information in electronic format.
    • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal: It is a citizen-centric initiative which will enable citizens to report cybercrimes online and all the complaints will be accessed by the concerned law enforcement agencies for taking action as per law.
    • Computer Emergency Response Team - India (CERT-In): It is an organization of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology which collects, analyses and disseminates information on cyber incidents, and also issues alert on cybersecurity incidents.
    • Cybersecurity Treaties: India has already signed cybersecurity treaties with countries such as the US, Russia, the UK, South Korea, and the European Union.
    • Multilateral Frameworks: Efforts are being made in multinational frameworks such as the Quad and the I2U2 to enhance cooperation in cyber incident responses, technology collaboration, capacity building, and in the improvement of cyber resilience.
    • India’s draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022: It seeks to ensure usage of personal data for lawful purposes only and proposes a penalty of up to ₹500 crore for data breaches.
    • Defence Cyber Agency (DCyA): It is created by Indian armed forces and is capable of offensive and defensive manoeuvres.

How can India Utilize G20 Summit to Build Consensus on Cyber Security?

  • Utilizing the Opportunity of the G20 Summit: As the host nation for the G20 summit, India can use this opportunity to bring together all the stakeholders driving the global levers of power to discuss cybersecurity.
  • Creating a Global Framework: India could take the lead in conceptualizing a global framework of common minimum acceptance for cybersecurity. This would be a significant contribution to collective security and a step towards building consensus on cybersecurity.
  • Raising Awareness: India can use the G20 summit to raise awareness about cybersecurity issues, emphasizing the importance of taking preventive measures and developing effective cybersecurity policies.

What can be the Way Forward?

  • International Cooperation: It is of critical importance to ensure global cooperation through information sharing and strengthening joint efforts in cybersecurity research and development as most cyberattacks originate from beyond the borders.
    • India can consider joining Budapest Convention along with Multilateral initiatives like QUAD.
  • Plugging the Gaps: It is important for the corporates or the respective government departments to find the gaps in their organisations and address those gaps and create a layered security system, wherein security threat intelligence sharing is happening between different layers.
  • A Truly Global Framework: It is needed as the current efforts are operating in silos. An apex body will be able to ensure operational coordination amongst various agencies.
  • Coordination and Information Dissemination: Formalize the coordination and prioritization of cyber security research and development activities; disseminate vulnerability advisories and threat warnings in a timely manner.

Drishti Mains Question

India is facing increased threat of cyber-crimes since pandemic. How can India tackle these threats and develop Global consensus on cyber security? Analyse in the context of India's G20 Presidency.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Prelims

Q.1 In India, under cyber insurance for individuals, which of the following benefits are generally covered, in addition to payment for the loss of funds and other benefits? (2020)

  1. Cost of restoration of the computer system in case of malware disrupting access to one’s computer
  2. Cost of a new computer if some miscreant wilfully damages it, if proved so
  3. Cost of hiring a specialised consultant to minimise the loss in case of cyber extortion
  4. Cost of defence in the Court of Law if any third party files a suit

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 4 only
(b) 1, 3 and 4 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ans: (b)

Q.2 In India, it is legally mandatory for which of the following to report on cyber security incidents? (2017)

  1. Service providers
  2. Data centres
  3. Body corporate

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (d)


Mains

Q. What are the different elements of cyber security ? Keeping in view the challenges in cyber security, examine the extent to which India has successfully developed a comprehensive National Cyber Security Strategy. (2022)

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