Cyberattacks a significant threat to democracy: Modi

by Admin — last modified Nov 24, 2017 01:29 PM
We have to ensure that cyberspace does not become a playground for dark horses of radicalism, says PM Narendra Modi at the fifth Global Conference on Cyber Space in Delhi.

The article by Komal Gupta was published in Livemint on November 24, 2017.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said creating a safe and secure cyberspace is on the primary agenda of the government as cyberattacks were a threat to democracy.

Modi’s assurance of decisively dealing with cyberattacks comes at a time when policymakers are making an unprecedented push to popularize digital transactions and cut down use of cash in order to have a more transparent and accountable economic environment. The government is at present working on a draft policy for tackling ransomware, a malicious software.

“We have to ensure that cyberspace does not become a playground for dark horses of radicalism,” Modi said, while inaugurating the fifth Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in the national capital.

A total of 50 incidents of cyberattacks affecting 19 financial organizations were reported from 2016 until June 2017, PTI reported in August.

With multiple cyberattacks affecting key infrastructure assets like ports and major payment companies recently, the government has decided to come out with a draft policy for tackling ransomware, a senior government official told Mint during the conference. “CERT-In (The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) is working on a draft policy for tackling ransomware which will be put up for consultation by various stakeholders, including organized enterprise users of IT (Information Technology), solution providers and internet service providers (ISPs),” Ajay Kumar, additional secretary in the ministry of electronics and information technology said.

Kumar said the draft policy will focus on the proprietary steps the country will take in case of a ransomware attack. This will include the steps for the sharing of information to try and restrict the loss as much as possible. A centre of excellence will be set up to find solutions to attacks or neutralise the malware, he added.

The need to set up a safe and secure cyberspace is one the major concerns of the government as it is moving to create a ‘less-cash’ economy. Earlier this year, the government announced the “DigiDhan Mission” to achieve a 25 billion digital transactions target, outlined in the Union budget for this fiscal.

Modi said empowerment through digital access is the aim of the government and digital technology has saved around $10 billion so far by eliminating middlemen.

The MyGov platform is a prime example of how technology strengthens offices. PRAGATI has resulted in faster governance decisions through general consensus, he added.

PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) is an interactive platform aimed at addressing the common man’s grievances and monitoring and reviewing programmes and projects of the central and state governments.

Umang stands for Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance. It provides all pan India e-Gov services ranging from central to local government bodies and other citizen-centric services like Aadhaar and Digilocker on one single platform or mobile app.

Modi said, “the app will provide over hundred citizen-centric services. It will automatically add pressure among peers and result in a better performance.”

Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, speaking at the event, said privacy of individuals was of utmost importance but “privacy cannot withhold innovation.” He further said the citizens’ right of accessing the internet is “non-negotiable” and the government will not allow any company to restrict people’s entry to the worldwide web.

Speaking on Facebook’s Free Basics programme, Prasad said the government did not allow social networking giant’s programme because it offered access to select internet services. Facebook had introduced its Free Basics programme in India in 2015 to offer free basic internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators. Prasad said the idea behind Free Basics was that everything will be free, namely eduction, health, entertainment and others, if one enters the Net through one gate (Facebook’s).

“I said India is a democracy, we don’t believe in one gate. We believe in multiple gates. Therefore, this gate locking for India will not be accepted and I did not allow it. This stems (from) our commitment that internet must be accessible to all,” he added.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was present at the event, said there was no legal framework on cyberspace and he hoped the conference would lead to a consensus to finalize the terms of the framework. “Our government has a lot more to do in net neutrality but we have taken progressive and revolutionary step in this regard,” added Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe is on a four-day visit to India with the aim of boosting bilateral ties.

On the first day of the conference, India agreed to establish a joint working group with Iran to work in different IT areas.

India will provide technical advice to Mauritius for setting up the digilocker infrastructure. An MoU has been signed with Denmark for future cooperation in the IT sector.

“While a policy on ransomware is welcome, there is much more to be done. Implementation of the 2014 National Cybersecurity Policy has been very slow. Even the simplest bits, such as a secure process for receiving vulnerability disclosure has been lacking,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society, a Bengaluru-based think tank.

PTI contributed to this story.