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Improving the Processes for Disclosing Security Vulnerabilities to Government Entities in India

Posted by Karan Saini, Pranesh Prakash and Elonnai Hickok at Mar 20, 2019 08:20 AM |
The aim of this policy brief is to recommend changes pertaining to current legislation, policy and practice to the Government of India regarding external vulnerability reporting and disclosure. The changes we recommend within this brief aim to strengthen the processes around voluntary vulnerability and bug disclosure by third parties.
 
This is an update to our previously released paper titled "Leveraging the Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure Process to Improve the State of Information Security in India". The full document can be accessed here.

 

The ubiquitous adoption and integration of information and communication technologies in almost all aspects of modern life raises with it the importance of being able to ensure the security and integrity of the systems and resources that we rely on. This importance is even more pressing for the Government, which is increasing its push of efforts towards digitising the operational infrastructure it relies on, both at the State as well as the Central level.

This policy brief draws from knowledge that has been gathered from various sources, including information sourced from newspaper and journal articles, current law and policy, as well as from interviews that we conducted with various members of the Indian security community. This policy brief touches upon the issue of vulnerability disclosures, specifically those that are made by individuals to the Government, while exploring prevalent challenges with the same and making recommendations as to how the Government’s vulnerability disclosure processes could potentially be improved.


Key learnings from the research include:

  • There is a noticeable shortcoming in the availability of information with regard to current vulnerability disclosure programmes and process of Indian Government entities, which is only exacerbated further by a lack of transparency;

  • There is an observable gap in the amount and quality of interaction between security researchers and the Government, which is supported by the lack of proper channels for mediating such communication and cooperation;

  • There are several sections and provisions within the Information Technology Act, 2000, which have the potential to disincentivise legitimate security research, even if the same has been carried out in good faith.

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