Cyber Security Concerns: A threat to India’s National Security

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In today’s increasingly digital world, Cybersecurity has become a serious concern for countries and organizations worldwide as reliance on technology continues to grow. India is no exception. Cyber security is a significant concern for India’s national security. These threats pose a substantial risk to India’s national security and the well-being of its citizens, businesses, and so on.  A cybersecurity threat is a potential for a harmful attack by a person or organization that aims to access a network, alter data, or steal sensitive information. Cyber threats range from simple acts of cybercrime, such as hacking, identity theft, and phishing, to more sophisticated and well-coordinated attacks, such as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and cyber espionage.The interconnected nature of technology and its critical role in our lives and economies make it essential to address these challenges and ensure the security and stability of our digital networks.

Cyber security threats and challenges for India and why it is necessary to address this issue?

India is one of the digital technology marketplaces with one of the quickest growth rates, and it helps the government’s efforts to make its Digital India vision a reality. Nevertheless, it also brings up cybersecurity issues, which pose a severe threat to the country’s national security. India is home to many businesses and government organizations that hold valuable information, and India’s critical infrastructure, such as its power and transportation networks, is heavily dependent on technology. So, the potential disruption of critical infrastructure is one of the national security concerns for India. A successful cyber attack on India’s power or transportation networks could have far-reaching consequences, such as widespread power outages or transportation chaos. Cyber attacks could cause not only widespread disruption but also severe implications for national security, as well as for public safety. Moreover, cyber attacks can cause significant financial losses for businesses and the government. Ransomware attacks, for example, can lock organizations out of their systems and data, forcing them to pay a ransom to regain access.

Confidential government and military data and citizens’ financial and personal information are at risk of being stolen or leaked by cyber criminals. Moreover, it undermines national security by exposing sensitive information to hostile actors. Terrorists launch cyberattacks to damage, breach, or use crucial infrastructure to jeopardize national security, adversely affect military hardware, obstruct the economy, and result in massive casualties. The rapid adoption of technology and the widespread use of the Internet have made India an attractive target for cybercriminals.

The Indian Navy’s eastern command computer systems, which manage the testing of India’s ballistic missile submarines and maritime operations in the South China Sea, were the target of an assault by hackers in 2012. Malware that secretly captured and transmitted private files and documents to Chinese IP addresses infiltrated the navy computers.

The National Crime Report Bureau says India reported an 11.8 % rise in cybercrime in 2020 and 578 instances of fake news on social media. A cyberattack against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant was attempted in October 2019. Moreover, Data breaches and cyber threats have become increasingly frequent and sophisticated during the COVID pandemic. Hackers also targeted the vaccination portal Cowin app to steal personal data. The national airline of India, Air India, disclosed in May 2021 that 4.5 million of its customers’ data had been exposed due to a cyberattack. The management information system (MIS) at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Container Terminal (JNPCT), one of five marine facilities in India’s main container gateway, was briefly disabled in February 2022, what is believed to have been a ransomware attack.

According to a published CERT-In report, ransomware assaults increased significantly in the first half of 2022 by 51% from the prior year. It highlighted the primary causes of these attacks as being post-COVID digitalisation, hybrid work culture, modernization of attack toolkits, and the emergence of ransomware as a service.

Cyber security threats are the most significant risk to National security, and building cyber hygiene is very important, National Cyber Security Coordinator Rajesh Pant said.

Microsoft India group head and director of government affairs, Ashutosh Chadha, said that cybercrime costs economies more than USD 6 trillion each year and is expected to increase to USD 10 trillion by 2025.

Amit Shah said at the National Conference on Cyber Safety and National Security, “National security and Cyberseacurity are somewhat intertwined. People who do not want our country to be safe attempt a variety of cyberattacks; some countries have even established cyber armies. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is fully prepared to handle this and is modernizing to counter such threats.”

Cyber security needs to be emphasized as a topic of intense awareness in university and school curriculam. It is also necessary to exert pressure on public officials to conduct regular vulnerability assessments and raise awareness of the growing cyber threat. A dedicated industry forum for cyber security should be established to create reliable homegrown solutions to stop cyberattacks.

The World Economic Forum Centre for Cybersecurity collaborates with multi stakeholder groups to improve cyber resilience by developing and scaling forward-looking solutions and supporting effective practices across digital ecosystems.

The government announced in the Lok Sabha that the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) had developed a draft National Cyber Security Strategy that takes a comprehensive approach to resolve the national cyberspace security problem.

To make India a power leader in this digital world, India must take proactive measures to strengthen its cyber security defenses to address cyber-attack challenges that affect the national interest. This includes investing in cybersecurity technologies, educating the public and businesses on safe online practices, and implementing robust security measures to protect critical infrastructure. The government must also work closely with companies and international organizations to share intelligence and coordinate response efforts in the event of a cyber attack. By doing so, India can protect its citizens, businesses, and national interests and safeguard its security in the digital age.

Chayanika Choudhury
Chayanika Choudhury
MA in Politics and International Relations Department of Politics and International Studies, Pondicherry University, Puducherry

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