‘India not prepared for cyber challenges’

Accroding to experts, new technologies are adding more challenges to cybersecurity.

As the pace of digitisation in India has grown by 90% since 2014, the country’s vulnerability to cyberattacks has increased exponentially, according to experts in the government.

Sudhir Kamath, director general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), specified that cyberattacks can be considered as the fifth dimension of war, and warned that new technologies are adding more challenges to cybersecurity today heightened by AI, big data, machine learning and quantum technologies.

He was speaking at a three-day conference on the future of security and warfare organised by the Bengaluru-based think-tank Synergia. 

Other cybersecurity experts at the conference brought this statement into perspective by pointing out India is the third greatest recipient of cyberattacks in the world. The scale of the problem is enough to hamper India’s growth, explained Lt General Rajesh Pant, the National Cyber Security Coordinator of India.

“Growing to a $5 trillion economy, as our prime minister wants, translates to a growth rate of 8-9%. But if we are hit by cybercrimes, attaining that goal will become difficult,” Pant said, adding that India is staring at losses of Rs 2 lakh crore through cyberattacks.

Speaking to DH, Dr Kamath specified that DRDO was involved in the creation of hardware and software solutions to combat the increasing scale of cyberattacks but would not disclose particulars, citing the classified nature of these projects.

What Dr Kamath did elucidate about was that Indian society was completely unprepared or unaware of the scale of attacks being perpetrated against from foreign state actors and private entities.

One example of this was the Face App, developed by the Russian Company Wireless Lab, which prompts users to upload photos of themselves which are then used by an AI system to generate images showing them looking older or in another gender. However, concerns over data leaks from the company have triggered fears that the images are being for nefarious purposes in Russia.

“This is what people don’t realise — that the app that they download onto their phones might be sending their data to parties which could use them for illicit purposes,” Dr Kamath said.

Lt General Pant suggested that taking the message of cybersecurity vigilance to schools could help build the better-informed society of tomorrow. 

He also suggested a sustained public interest campaign, similar to anti-tobacco films which run in theatres, to impress upon the public the gravity of the situation.

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