By Vijay Darda | 09-04-2018
In this age of technology, foolproof cyber security is imperative, for India too is the target of cyber criminals!
This is an era of technology and almost all the documents are stored in the computer and are sent from one place to another through the Internet when necessary. From individuals to small companies, big establishments and governments of different countries work under this digital system. But one day a person sitting in one country suddenly mounts cyber attack in another country and steals information stored in the computer. At times your computer gets locked and asks you for money to get it started again. These happenings have become commonplace these days. Many companies are also forced to pay ransom but there is no guarantee that hackers will start the computer again after taking money from you!
As long as these instances of hacking are limited to private computers, they do not attract much attention. However, when it comes to the official website of government or any ministry, the situation becomes extremely dangerous. When the defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted about the hacking of the defence ministry’s website last week, the country was alarmed. It was only when India’s cyber security chief Gulshan Rai announced in the evening that it was not an attack that the country heaved a sigh of relief. Actually, the worry was greater because cyber attackers from abroad keep trying to target our country from time to time. Even in May last year, Chinese and Pakistani hackers tried unsuccessfully to hack the computers of Indian military officers. Military officials had received a mail saying that they could be deployed in Sri Lanka. There were viruses in that mail that stole statistics. Some officials opened the mail too. After that, the Army cyber group directed all the officials not to open any such mail ever. Links of sex videos were sent to some Army officers. The computer from which the mail was sent had Internet Protocol (IP) address of Germany.
In May 2017, there was a cyber attack on the Andhra Pradesh police department. The situation being serious, the central government had issued an alert and the Reserve Bank of India too had advised all banks to update their software. How dangerous the cyber attack can be was witnessed by the world last year. Suddenly thousands of computers in many countries were shut down. Cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab had reported that at least 45,000 computers in 74 countries and antivirus company Avast had reported that 57,000 computers in 99 countries had been destroyed. In many countries, government and private companies as also the banking system suffered immensely due to this cyber attack. India too was not untouched. Operations at one of the three terminals of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Mumbai came to a standstill. Multinationals from Russia, Ukraine, Spain and France too were hit. Actually the hackers have become so cunning that they breach cyber security of even developed countries easily. Even superpowers like Russia and America too fail to protect themselves at times. The US has witnessed several incidents of hacking bank accounts and stealing money. North Korean hackers also tried to hack the US defence system several times.
India’s cyber security system is certainly not very strong, so it is easy for the cyber attackers to target it. In July 2017, India’s cyber security chief Gulshan Rai told the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance that the incidents related to malware and the cyber attacks that steal information in India are coming to light in hordes every week. He had also informed that the cyber attacks have become serious since 2000. By 2020, the number of such viruses and attacks will increase manifold and the risks from them will also be very large.
The government now has personal information of every citizen of the country in the form of Aadhaar. If someone steals this information, there will be a great loss to the country. The threat is increasing at the same pace at which the mobile apps are increasing and the mobile service is expanding. According to the experts, about two billion electronic transactions are done every day in India. If cyber security is not made impeccable, anybody can guess the amount of damage the cyber attackers can cause us. A report on the Digital Economy last year was presented before the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance which said people related to finance could be most vulnerable to cyber attacks. At the same time, the country’s security system, economic, scientific and space-related establishments will have to be protected at any cost, lest our enemies will be able to inflict heavy losses on us.
So the question is what should be done? I have spoken to several cyber security experts. Experts advise that we should keep our computer’s security system up-to-date and use best quality antivirus software. Also, we should not open unknown and suspicious mails and avoid porn sites. If security is taken care of at personal level, cyber attacks can be largely avoided. Especially the officials and government departments need to be more cautious. We must keep looking for new ways to prevent cyber attacks. Only then will we be safe.
Before I conclude…
It is disturbing that during Budget Session, merely 8 per cent parliamentary business was transacted in the Rajya Sabha and only 4 per cent in Lok Sabha! Parliament is a temple of hope for the common people and therefore, every minute should be used fruitfully. Unfortunately, more time is wasted in pandemonium that keeps breaking over any issue. The parliamentary system makes it necessary that the ruling party should be flexible so that time can be utilised effectively. The ruling party has completely failed to take the Opposition into confidence. All parties will have to think that whenever there is pandemonium in the Parliament, the hopes and aspirations of the common man are buried.
India is a fast developing country. Obviously, it is also the target of cyber attackers. In such a situation, we will have to develop a strong security system and be alert enough so that none will be able to breach it. We will have to protect our economic, defence, science and space establishments to ensure that no information is stolen.