India vulnerable to cyber attacks but doesn't have capacity to deal with it: Home Secretary
India Today , May 31, 2018
The Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Thursday warned that India is vulnerable to cyber espionage. Addressing a gathering on smart policing organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in New Delhi, he said, "There is also a phenomenal increase in cyber espionage by corporates, governments, hostile governments to steal state secrets, corporate information, intellectual property or military superiority. Cyber attackers are becoming more organised. Many [hackers] have significant funding."
The situation could worsen in the coming days Gauba warned, "Cyber crime is going to multiply. Hackers will attack government websites. Cyber crime will cost the world $6 trillion a year by 2021."
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India is ranked third after US and China in terms of cyber crime incidents. Rajeev Gauba said, "Cyber criminals can steal personal information, data from private or government organisations, disrupt services, cripple the financial system, trigger national security. Cyber attacks can take multiple forms like terror attacks, identity theft, circulation of offensive content, online sexual abuse, online scams, online hate crimes. "
However, the senior most bureaucrat at the home ministry made a candid admission saying that the country does not have the wherewithal to deal with the newest security challenge.
Gauba said, "Cyber security is one of the important national security challenges that countries face all over the world. Cyber security attacks have wide threat which can compromise power grids, impact and cripple financial institutions, leakage of sensitive information. What's more important while countering these is speed and agility. To stay ahead of attackers one has to adjust and improve, so the technology has to constantly evolve and stay ahead. But have to admit that government does not have adequate in-house capability, expertise or inherent strength."
"Partnership with the private sector and with the academia hence is of utmost importance," Gauba added.
While citizens have started relying more on digital transactions, corresponding figures show an increase in cyber attacks.
Drawing reference from a recent case of cyber crime recently in Jamtara in Jharkhand where five accused were arrested, Gauba who is from Jharkhand cadre said, "More than half the cyber crime is traced back to Jamtara. The place has become digital India's underbelly. They target people in Tamil Nadu, Delhi, and other states. This is Jamtara's contribution to cyber crime in India. These are not very educated individuals and have thus taken to cyber crime. This points to the future of this area. The place was earlier known for thugs, and people who used to steal coals, but has now shifted the modus operandi to smart phones."
As the use of internet is increasing with people relying more on online transactions for buying groceries, books and even for social interactions these people have shifted to cyber crime. Crime is also undergoing a massive tectonic change in its modus operandi, it is moving from physical space to virtual space.
While technology has made transactions easy, the transactions can be vulnerable. Rajeev Gauba added, "Travel, shopping, accessing public services, sharing of data is imperative. Consequently, we are leaving digital footprints. Mobiles and refrigerators are interlinked. Now you get an alert when you are out of milk, you can control your TV with your phone. Seamless connectivity makes life easier but also makes us vulnerable to anonymous cyber attacks."
The situation is rather grave with government mulling asking social media organisations to base their servers here but at the same time cyber crimes have seen a northward spike. "We will deal with this soon,"Gauba said.
Meanwhile, former home secretary GK Pillai told India Today TV that many countries across the globe ask internet companies to have their servers in their countries. "The advantage of having servers in India is that data transfer can be regulated and also governed by Indian laws."
According to Pillai, however, the most important thing to do now was to spruce up our cyber security apparatus and increase awareness.
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