Modi government needs a 5-year perspective plan for securing India’s computer networks
Going wholly digital has its own consequences. For one, India will become increasingly vulnerable to deadly cyber attacks, which are a reality today. It also means that the Indian economy would be subject to such attacks periodically like Europe, US and other countries have been.
From Wannacry that crippled computer networks globally barely a few weeks ago, the latest attack by aggressive hackers through ransomware, petya or Petwrap, has demonstrated the vulnerability of global systems network across government organisations, multinational companies and public utilities.
Cyber attacks, crimes, terrorism and extortion may no longer be the subject of Bruce Willis movies like Die Hard or Live Free in which big infrastructure networks and stock markets are targeted.
The attacks in real life have assumed ominous proportions, given that ransomware has hit computers in sectors as diverse as consumer retail, shipping, aviation, oil and gas installations in geographies covering US, Russia, France, Spain and Ukraine.
Unlike Wannacry, the Petwrap virus has apparently extended its tentacles to Indian shores with shipping operations at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port on west coast, particularly hit.
Most Indian subsidiaries of companies like the Moller Maersk, Rosneft, WPP, Merck, Saint Gobain, TNT Express, Mondelez, Mars, Beirsdorf and Reckitt Benckiser, have also closed down their computer networks owing to the attacks that continued for a second day in succession.
Banks, financial institutions and markets in Eastern Europe have reportedly been the worst hit due to the Petya worm, which invaded systems networks.
Though several companies and governments have set up firewalls afresh, segregated the infected systems or put up patches, there’s no denying that billions of dollars worth business was lost.
It’s only natural that cyber attacks would become more sophisticated, while security solutions get refined to take on future onslaughts.
The most frightening is the possible nexus between underworld gangs, hackers and terror outfits joining hands to rage a ‘virtual war’ against the global economic and political order.
John Carlin’s 1977 article for the Wired Magazine titled Farewell to Arms may not be limited to the realm of imagination, given the latest attacks shifting to cyber-world.
These attacks should only strengthen our resolve to make our computer networks more robust, in case of similar recurrences in the future. Given that computer systems, information highway and communication technologies have become inseparable part of human life, India cannot be an exception.
In the Indian context, the vulnerability fears are all the more grave, given that over 78 per cent systems shifted operations to public clouds. Cyber attacks notwithstanding, the other concerns that need immediate resolution is phishing, DDOS, APTs and ransomware. Though cyber attacks are a serious challenge, these incursions have thrown up a business opportunity as well.
Given the millions of IT work force that India employs, making huge investments in research and development of security software, maintenance and upgrades with sophistication and finesse, would open up new business avenues. Investments and services in securing the millions of networks and android phones need to be prioritised as well. As we move into high technology areas like artificial intelligence networks and robotics, refining these capabilities to become a global security services hub must be uppermost on our minds.
For this to happen, serious government support in terms of IT infrastructure, innovation and policy formulation needs to be done without losing time.
For the first time, this government has appointed a cyber security advisor to the prime minister, considering the defence and security implications of IT networks.
But even this may not be enough. The Modi government will have to devise a five-year perspective plan for securing the country’s networks, like our borders.