War by Other Means

Cyber warfare in India needs a proactive strategy and not ossified policies

Aditya Kakkar

New Delhi: On August 28, news emerged that Symantec, the company behind the popular anti-virus, Norton, had sent a threat intelligence report to its clients in July about a sustained cyber spying campaign against both India and Pakistan. The attack was from October 2016 and appeared to be the work of several like-minded groups. This concerted attempt to breach India’s cyber defence is alarming. Over the years, cyber-attacks have become both frequent and sophisticated, blurring lines between the laws of nations and becoming a global epidemic.

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For instance, while there were a total of 50,363 cybercrime incidents in 2016, there have already been 27,482 incidents till June 2017. This data has been compiled by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which also alerted the home ministry of 50 incidents of cybercrime, affecting 19 financial organisations, from November 2016 to June 2017. In February, India established a centre to help companies and individuals detect and remove malware, which is operated by CERT-In.

“A separate research and development fund for cyber security of Rs 1,000 crore has been created to be spent over five years for upgrading technological capacity. A central sector project namely Cyber Crime Prevention for Women and Children (CCPWC) with a total estimated cost of Rs 195.83 crore has also been approved to provide infrastructure and capacity building to address cybercrimes,” minister of state for home affairs, Hansraj Ahir, informed the Lok Sabha in August.

He also said that cyber security mock drills involving 148 organisations from different sectors, including the finance sector, have been conducted to assess the cyber security preparedness of these organisations. “CERT-In has issued 21 advisories for security safeguards covering Point of Sale, Micro ATMs, electronic wallets, online banking, smart phones, unified payment interface, unstructured supplementary service data, RuPay, SIM cards, wireless access points/routers, mobile banking, cloud, Aadhar Enabled Payment Systems etc,” said Ahir.

According to a new Pew Research Center report based on a survey of 38 countries, cyber-attacks are the top concern in Japan and second-highest concern in places such as the United States, Germany and the UK, where there have been a number of high-profile attacks of this type in recent months. Clearly this is a global problem, whose nature of threat is continuously evolving. In one of the most comprehensive reports on cybercrime, Cybersecurity Ventures predicts global annual cybercrime costs will grow from USD 3 trillion in 2015 to USD 6 trillion annually by 2021, which includes damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm.

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