According to Symantec’s 2017 Internet Cyber Security Threat Report, India was ranked as the fifth most vulnerable country in the world in terms of potential cyber security breaches. That most cases of data breaches in India are often under reported (owing to the absence of mandatory legal requirements) only to make matters even more worst. This article talks about Cyber Security and procedures undertaken by the government for securing people from cyber bully’s or harassment.
Cyber Security Meaning
Cyber security or information technology security are the techniques of protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or attacks that are aimed for exploitation.
In the last couple of decades India has carved a niche for itself in IT. Most of the Indian banking industry and financial institutions have embraced IT to its full optimization. Reports suggest that cyber attacks are understandably directed toward economic and financial institutions. Given the increasing dependency of the Indian economic and financial institutions on IT, a cyber attack against them might lead to an irreparable collapse of our economic structures. And the most frightening thought is the ineffectiveness of reciprocal arrangements or the absence of alternatives.
The Indian government has embarked on a programme to turn the country into a digital economy. It has unveiled a series of initiatives—from introducing Digital Locker, which eliminates the need for people to carry hard copies of documents issued by the government, to demonetization, which has spurred the use of digital payments across the country.
The move towards a digital economy is likely to help trigger a fresh wave of economic growth, attract more investment, and create new jobs, across multiple sectors.
However, it also poses a big challenge, that of cyber security. With the move towards a digital economy, increasing amount of consumer and citizen data will be stored digitally and a large number of transactions will be carried out online, by companies, individuals as well as government departments. That makes India a bigger target for cyber-criminals and hackers. Various stakeholders, especially Indian companies, need to be better prepared to handle this threat.
Indulgence of Information Technology by the Government
The cyber security policy is an evolving task and it caters to the whole spectrum of ICT users and providers including home users and small, medium and large enterprises and Government & Non-Government entities. It serves as an umbrella framework for defining and guiding the actions related to security of cyberspace. It also enables the individual sectors and organizations in designing appropriate cyber security policies to suit their needs.
The policy provides an overview of what it takes to effectively protect information, information systems & networks and also gives an insight into the Government’s approach and strategy for protection of cyber space in the country. It also outlines some pointers to enable collaborative working of all key players in public & private to safeguard country’s information and information systems. This policy, therefore, aims to create a cyber security framework, which leads to specific actions and programmes to enhance the security posture of country’s cyber space.
The government has been a key driver for increased adoption of IT-based products and IT enabled services in Public services (Government to citizen services, citizen identification, public distribution systems), Healthcare (telemedicine, remote consultation, mobile clinics), Education (eLearning, virtual classrooms, etc) and Financial services (mobile banking / payment gateways), etc. Such initiatives have enabled increased IT adoption in the country through sectoral reforms and National programmes which have led to creation of large scale IT infrastructure with corporate/private participation.
National Cyber Security Policy, 2013
The Government of India took the first formalized step towards cyber security in 2013, vide the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Department of Electronics and Information Technology’s National Cyber Security Policy, 2013.
The Policy aimed at building a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses and the Government. Its mission is to protect cyberspace information and infrastructure, build capabilities to prevent and respond to cyber attacks, and minimise damages through coordinated efforts of institutional structures, people, processes, and technology. The objectives of the policy include creating a secure cyber ecosystem, compliance with global security standards, strengthen the regulatory framework, creating round the clock mechanisms for gathering intelligence and effective response, operation of a National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre for 24×7 protection of critical information infrastructure, research and development for security technologies, create a 500,000 strong cyber security workforce, to provide fiscal benefits to businesses for adopting cyber security practices, to build public private partnerships for cooperative cyber security efforts.
Some of the strategies adopted by the Policy include:
Creating a secure cyber ecosystem through measures such as a national nodal agency, encouraging organisations to designate a member of senior management as the Chief Information Security Officer and develop information security policies.
Creating an assurance framework.
Encouraging open standards.
Strengthening the regulatory framework coupled with periodic reviews, harmonization with international standards, and spreading awareness about the legal framework.
Creating mechanisms for security threats and responses to the same through national systems and processes. National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) functions as the nodal agency for coordination of all cyber security efforts, emergency responses, and crisis management.
Securing e-governance by implementing global best practices, and wider use of Public Key Infrastructure.
Protection and resilience of critical information infrastructure with the National Critical .Information Infrastructure Protection Centre operating as the nodal agency.
To promote cutting edge research and development of cyber security technology.
Human Resource Development through education and training programs to build capacity.
In 2014, the Prime Minister’s Office created the position of the National Cyber Security Coordinator. In 2016, in response to the intrusions by infamous hacker group ‘Legion’, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued several orders and directives. These included use of the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) to audit the financial sector, review and strengthening of the IT Act, directives to social networking site Twitter to strengthen its network, and directives to all stakeholders of the financial industry including digital payment firms to immediately report any unusual incidents.
Some agencies that deal with cyber security in India are National Technical Research Organisation, the National Intelligence Grid, and the National Information Board. In 2016, India’s first chief information security officer (CISO) thus appointed with the aim of enhancing cyber security in the country and subsequently all ministries then asked to appoint Central Information Security Officers.
To address cyber security issues in India, government has recently introduced some other important measures as discussed below:
National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC)
NCCC is a critical component of India’s cyber security against hackers and espionage as well as track terrorist activity on line. A group of cyber security professionals and experts will look after the functioning of the Centre and track illegal and terror activities on line. It will run on similar lines as in the US, UK, France and Germany. Its mandate may also include cyber intelligence sharing.
Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre
To combat cyber security violations and prevent their increase, Government of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) in February 2017 launched Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre a new desktop and mobile security solution for cyber security in India.
The centre operated by CERT-in under Section 70B of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The solution, which is a part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s Digital India initiative, will detect botnet infections in India and prevent further infections by notifying, enable cleaning and securing systems of end-users. It functions to analyze BOTs/malware characteristics, provides information and enables citizens to remove BOTs/malwar and to create awareness among citizens to secure their data, computers, mobile phones and devices such as home routers.
The Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre is a step in the direction of creating a secure cyber ecosystem in the country as envisaged under the National Cyber Security Policy in India. This centre operates in close coordination and collaboration with Internet Service Providers and Product/Antivirus companies to notify the end users regarding infection of their system and providing them assistance to clean their systems, as well as industry and academia to detect bot infected systems. The center strives to increase awareness of common users regarding botnet, malware infections and measures should taken to prevent malware infections and secure their computers, systems and devices.
The Centre offers the following security and protective tools:
“USB Pratirodh”, also launched by the government which, Union IT and Electronics Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad states thus aimed at controlling the unauthorised usage of removable USB storage media devices like pen drives, external hard drives and USB supported mass storage devices.
An app called “Samvid” was also introduced. Its a desktop based Application Whitelisting solution for Windows operating system. It allows only preapproved set of executable files for execution and protects desktops from suspicious applications from running.
M-Kavach, a device for security of Android mobile devices has also developed. It provides protection against issues related to malware that steal personal data & credentials, misuse WiFi and Bluetooth resources, lost or stolen mobile device, spam SMSs, premium-rate SMS and unwanted / unsolicited incoming calls.
Central Monitoring System (CMS)
Central Monitoring System, the Union Government’s ambitious electronic intelligence monitoring system, is likely to start functioning fully by this year-end. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs officials, the hi-tech unit which will provide unhindered access to phone calls, text messages, and social media conversations to law enforcement agencies in real-time will have two units in the inaugural phase in Delhi and Bangalore.
National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)
Article 70A (IT Act 2008) mandated the need for a special agency that would look at designated CIIs and evolve practices, policies and procedures to protect them from a cyber-attack. The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) created and placed under the technical intelligence agency, the National Technical Research Organisation, to roll out counter-measures in cooperation with other security agencies and private corporate entities that man these critical sectors.
Protection of Power Sector
In December 2010, Ministry of Power had constituted CERTs (Computer Emergency Response Teams) for power sector i.e.; CERT-Thermal (nodal agency- National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC)), CERT-Hydro (nodal agency- National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC)) and CERT-Transmission (nodal agency- Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL)) to take necessary action to prevent cyber attacks in their domains. The State Power Utilities have also advised to prepare their own sectorial Crisis Management Plan (CMP) and align themselves with the Nodal Agencies i.e. NTPC, NHPC & PGCIL and CERT – for the necessary actions.
Grid Security Expert System (GSES)
Grid Security Expert System (GSES) thus developed by POWERGRID and it involves installation of knowledge based Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, numerical relays and Remote Terminal units up to 132 kV stations and the reliable Optical fibre Ground wire (OFGW) communication system. The objective of the GSES is implementation of the Automatic Defense mechanism to facilitate reliable and secure grid operation.
Crisis Management Plan
India has prepared a Crisis Management Plan (CMP) for countering cyber-attacks and cyber terrorism for preventing the large scale disruption in the functioning of critical information systems of Government, public and private sector resources and services. The Crisis Management Plan (CMP) for Countering Cyber Attacks and Cyber Terrorism outlines a framework for dealing with cyber related incidents for rapid identification, swift response and remedial actions to mitigate and recover from cyber related incidents impacting critical national processes.
Network Traffic Analysis System (NeTRA)
A monitoring and electronic surveillance project thus executed by the DRDO.It appears to be Indian government’s first attempt of mass surveillance rather than individual targets. It will scan the activities over the social networking websites like twitter and would scan the mails and chat transcript and even the voices in the internet traffic.
The above efforts are aligned towards developing a cyber defence capability. There is no information in the open domain regarding development of cyber offensive capabilities and their integration. Cyber space essentially “Offence Dominant” by its very character and cyber power includes both defensive and offensive capabilities backed by appropriate organisation, technology, skilled human resource and a well-developed defence electronic manufacturing and components base.