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Indian cyber space less secure than neighbors

Viraj Desai

Vulnerabilities in the government of India websites could wreak havoc in Asia’s second fastest growing economy as expert warns that Indian is less protected than regional neighbors.

With over a billion people in India and a steady surge in the number of users of smartphones, hackers and cyber criminals pose serious threats.

Cyber crime expert Harjinder Singh Lallie, from the University of Warwick, believes India is not only lagging well behind other countries but also from regional competitors.

Lallie cited the example of Asian nation Malaysia as one that is developing its cyber security at a rapid pace. For example, the Malaysian government has introduced strict new compliance requirements in the form of Malaysia’s Personal Data Protection Act 2013.

Although the Indian government has tried to demonstrate its intent through National Cyber Security Policy, implementation of the exhaustive guidelines mentioned in the document is a huge task for the government. 

“During my last few visits to India, two consistent themes were the industry being unsure how the policy would be making its way through academic and industry, and that there is no incentive on collaboration with countries such as the UK/USA who are far advanced in terms of their Cyber Security capability,” said Lallie.

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Some of the biggest challenges for the country include lack of cyber security BSC/MSC courses. There are just 20 compared to 70 in the UK, which has a fraction of India’s population.

“There is a phenomenal boom in the increased connectivity of the ordinary citizen who carry connected phones around with them, sometimes two or three, but are not aware of the dangers that it poses,” said Lallie. “How does India plan to raise the most basic level of awareness?”

India’s online vulnerability is clearly evident because presently there is no organisation centrally for reporting cyber crime. For the US, it was estimated that 11.5 million Americans were defrauded last year. There are no such figures for India. This demonstrates that the country needs to strengthen not only its online security systems but also start a uniform-monitoring mechanism.

“The government is much less ‘open’ in India so is unlikely to release statistics,” said Lallie.

But low awareness levels among average individuals as well as nascent stage development of Intellectual Property make the country a huge target for various cyber crimes.

In September Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the UK government have jointly launched a cyber security and public policy education program.

The Chevening-TCS Scholarship on Cyber Policy is targeted at mid-career professionals in India who have the potential to be future leaders, and will prepare them for the increasingly complex world of cyber security and policy.