During the election campaign, Narendra Modi Government promised many pro active reforms for India and a robust Cyber Security Infrastructure was one of them. While it is premature to confirm or deny fulfillment of Cyber Security related promises yet it is clear that the Cyber Security Infrastructure of India is not in a good shape as on date.
There are many Cyber Security Challenges that are creating complicated Cyber Security Problems for India. Even the Digital India project of Modi Government is suffering from lack of Cyber Security Infrastructure. Smart Cities have posed their own Cyber Security and Civil Liberties Problems and they must be resolved before launching of full fledged Smart Cities in India.
Modi Government is presently facing unlimited challenges that have accumulated over a period of time. Thanks to our bureaucratic set up and all pervasive corruption, public reforms have always been kept at bay. There was no dearth of money and skilled people to accomplish the projected targets but still a dominant majority of projects in the last decade have failed to materialise.
Now that Mr. Modi has asked for a brief but accurate report and analysis of the situation, our bureaucrats are sweating and are in high stress. Even if they may somehow justify their non action and national reforms massacre still they would not be in a position to accomplish the mammoth tasks that have yet to be achieved. Decades of corrupt practices, incompetencies and indifference cannot be defeated in few years especially by retaining the same bureaucratic and ministerial structure.
Although there are hundreds of issues of national importance yet I would like to confine myself to a single issue that is closely and intrinsically related to our national security. The issue that I am talking about is the cyber security of India that is in a really bad shape (PDF). For decades our bureaucrats and Indian government did not consider cyber security as an essential part of national security policy of India. As a result cyber security has been grossly neglected and this has created a situation of high alert.
Even on the legislation front, India has failed to do the needful. For instance, we need to repeal the laws like Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000), Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, etc but for some strange reasons our bureaucrats and Indian government kept them intact. I have been suggesting this recourse for the past five years but till now nothing concrete has happened in this regard. Similarly, crucial laws are absent from Indian statute books. These include law regarding privacy, data protection (PDF), telecom security, encryption, cloud computing, etc.
Mr. Modi would be required to not only overhaul his cabinet structure but also cleanse the bureaucratic circles that have been plaguing Indian reforms. Bureaucrats and politicians with clean image, hard working reputation and reforms oriented approach must alone be part and parcel of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that may emerge as a “centralised national reforms point” of India. The approach regarding the proposed PMO is much required as that may be a game changer for India.
The previous PMO of India has already sanctioned a plan to spend 1,000 crore over the next four years to strengthen the cyber security capabilities of India. All Mr. Modi has to do is to make it sure that this may not be another proposal with no actual implementation. It must also be ensured that the allocated money is not only utilised but corrupt practices must also not take place while executing the cyber security project.
Obviously India needs to establish both offensive and defensive cyber security capabilities. This is important to protect the critical infrastructures (PDF) of India that are dependent upon information technology. A cyber warfare policy of India (PDF) must also be formulated as Malware like Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame, Uroburos/Snake, Blackshades, FinFisher, etc are far beyond the reach of present cyber security mechanisms. These Malware are stealth in nature and till the time they are discovered the damage is already done.
Skilled workforce is also need of the hour and for this purpose cyber security courses must be introduced at the university level. Online education must be encouraged so that online cyber security courses can be imparted in India.
In short, the cyber security challenges before the Modi Government are institutional, skills driven, time sensitive and urgent in nature. We have already delayed strengthening of our cyber security capabilities and any further delay should not be tolerated by him.