KOCHI: India’s cybersecurity landscape is under increasing siege from a host of domestic and international actors, warned Arun Sinha, Chairman of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). Addressing a packed audience at the 16th edition of the c0c0n conference, Sinha highlighted the mounting threats and the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures.
India’s Unique Digital Revolution
Sinha began by emphasizing India’s extraordinary position as the world’s only country to successfully create and scale digital public infrastructure by the government and accessible to all at no cost. Notable examples include Aadhar, UPI, and ONDC, the open network for digital commerce.
Cybersecurity in the Digital Age
Turning to cybersecurity, Sinha underscored its critical role in national security. With the increasing dependency on digital infrastructure due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, smart cities, 4G, 5G, and IoT, India faces a growing attack surface. Last year saw a huge spike in cyber incidents reported, growing in complexity and sophistication.
Alarming Increase in Cyber Incidents
In 2022, a staggering number of cyber incidents were reported, showing a significant rise. These incidents not only increased in number but also in complexity and sophistication. Sinha revealed that threat actors have adopted advanced obfuscation and deception techniques to avoid detection.
Ransomware Threats Across Multiple Sectors
Ransomware attacks have plagued India’s power and energy sector, transport, health, and financial industries, affecting critical sectors.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Chairman Sinha underscored the need for robust mitigation strategies and careful planning to defend against these cyber threats. He also stressed the pressing need to address supply chain attacks.
Government Initiatives and Collaborative Ecosystem
The Government of India has launched several initiatives to bolster cybersecurity efforts. These include capacity-building programs, incentives for startups, public-private partnerships, research and development support, infrastructure strengthening, and legal and regulatory changes. Sinha acknowledged that addressing these threats requires not just government intervention but the creation of a collaborative ecosystem that fosters competition and innovation while also considering national security concerns.
The Role of AI in Shaping the Future
Sinha delved into the role of AI in shaping the future, noting its profound impact on society and humanity. The Chairman discussed the challenge of regulating AI development, particularly when large corporations and governments dominate it. AI’s influence in areas such as decision-making and public discourse manipulation poses risks.
Participating in AI Conversations
Sinha urged India’s active involvement in discussions surrounding AI’s legal, ethical, and societal implications. He called for a focus on safety research, ethical guidelines, transparency, and inclusivity in AI development.
A Whole-of-Society Approach to Cybersecurity
Sinha emphasized that addressing these challenges requires not just a whole-of-government approach but a whole-of-society perspective. Conferences like c0c0nplay a pivotal role in fostering collaboration among cybersecurity experts and innovators.
He expressed hope that platforms like c0c0n would evolve into technology and regulatory sandboxes, providing a safe environment to test new ideas, technologies, and regulations before full-scale implementation.
Chairman Arun Sinha’s address shed light on India’s pioneering achievements in digital infrastructure, the importance of cybersecurity, and the challenges posed by the evolving AI landscape. His call for a holistic approach to security and innovation resonated strongly with the audience.
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