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NSA Ajit Doval calls for ‘Atmanirbhar’ cyberspace



NSA Ajit Doval

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval who was speaking at a two-day long virtual cyber conference, Cocon 2020 said we as a citizen of India need to pledge to be cyber aware, maintain cyber hygiene, secure personal gadgets and report cybercrime and have responsible behaviour in cyberspace.

People in business have a special responsibility to ensure the protection of business and the customers’ data, Doval emphasised during the cybersecurity and hacking conference. The two-day long idea exchange has being organised jointly by Kerala Police, the Society for the Policing of Cyberspace (POLCYB) and the Information Security Research Association.

Doval in his address said the world is passing through a traumatizing experience of Covid-19 besides, it’s a medical and health dimension that presents formidable challenges. It will profoundly impact our economy, government, industry, business, education and International landscape and informational technology.

He said that due to work from home, which is the new normal during the pandemic, there is a greater dependence on digital payment to reduce cash handling. “Greater data sharing is happening online and on social media. In India the progress we made through digital and e-governance help us to ensure that we would carry out the business of the government, economic activity and social interactions however the malicious actors also found a new opportunity,” he said

He added that the government witnessed a surge of 500% in cyber crimes with limited awareness and poor cyber hygiene. Financial frauds have seen an exponential increase due to greater dependence on digital platforms.

“The adversaries tried to exploit the crisis situation through various misinformation, fake news and social media. For our adversaries data floating on the cyberspace is a goldmine for extracting information to undermine the privacy of citizen and add vulnerability of protected data of the government. It also adds to the vulnerability of the data concerning our infrastructure. It perhaps undermines our economic and business practices by applying illegal and unethical means,” NSA said.

Phishing campaigns through Covid-19 related themes targeting government, defence and critical infrastructure surged during this period. Malicious domains and websites to the tune of almost 5,000 were registered short span of time. We witnessed the attacks on the account of Indian government officials and websites using spear-phishing as a vector and COVID-19 themes.

Citing an example of how fake and malicious apps and portals were created around the coronavirus theme Doval said, “Within a few hours of the announcement of PM Care fund several fake Arogya Setu apps popped up to exploit users data.”

He said our cybersecurity agencies took a number of initiatives and regularly issued alerts and advisories. Cyber threat intelligence is being synergised pro-actively and protective measures are being undertaken to ensure the protection of our critical information infrastructure. To counter these new-age threats several conferences and webinars are being conducted.

Asking private players to come forward and strengthen the Indian cyberspace Doval said, “There is no dearth of talent in India, our IT and IT and ITES market share is 55 % globally. The same needs to be extended to the cybersecurity sector, which is emerging as one of the very promising international markets. Start-ups must come with a solution based on the requirement of the Indian market and extend it globally. We must build capacity so that all the critical cyber assets are manned by skilled professionals.”

“We (govt) are already striving hard to protect our cyberspace. We are coming up to the National cybersecurity strategy 2020 which envisions the safe, secured, trusted, resilient and vibrant cyberspace for India’s prosperity,” he said.