India needs to build safe cyber environment: Shiv Shankar Menon


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New Delhi, 17 May, 2012:

“India needs to create a climate and environment within which security is built into our cyber and communications working methods”, said National Security Advisor (NSA), Shiv Shankar Menon. Menon was releasing the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses’ (IDSA) report on India’s Cyber Security Challenges at IDSA on May 16, 2012.

The NSA stated categorically that India was not in favour of curbing freedom of expression on the internet, but at the same time, in a democracy a line will need to be drawn between the collective right to security and individual’s right to privacy.

The nation needs to “harden its critical networks and develop metrics to certify and assure that our critical cyber networks, equipment and infrastructure are secure”, said Menon, adding that “we must find ways to indigenously generate manpower, technologies and equipment that we require for our cyber security.”

Terming the IDSA report as “topical”, coming in at a time when the government is in the final stages of preparing a ‘whole-of–government Cyber Security architecture, Menon welcomed it as a “significant contribution towards increasing an understanding of the issue of cyber security and of what we should be worrying about in this field.”

In his address, Menon spoke about the effects of ICT on warfare, highlighting how the ICT revolution has redistributed power and brought into play the non-state actors, individuals and terrorists in particular. Citing the example of West Asia, Menon pointed out that technology places increasingly lethal powers in the non state actors, who use it in popular movements to mobilise people and influence opinions against regimes.

What makes the Cyber Security issue even more complicated, insisted Menon, is the fact that these technologies are not just available to the state where law and policies can control and limit their use, they are widely available in the public domain where commercial and individual motives can easily lead to misuse.

Drawing a comparison between states, the NSA said that information technologies and their effects have made asymmetric strategies much more effective and attractive. He added that the weaker states use cyber war and anti satellite capabilities to neutralise or raise the cost and deter the use of its military strength by a stronger sate.

The NSA concluded that India should be prepared to deal with both the threats to cyber space and risks arising through cyber space, as a “step towards a coherent and comprehensive cyber security policy”, adding that the while NTRO is tasked to deal with the protection of our critical security cyber infrastructure, institutions like CERT-IN have proved their worth during events like Common Wealth Games in defending our open civil systems.

Also present on the occasion was former Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations and the chairman of the taskforce, Nitin Desai, who pointed out that cyber space is emerging as a place of global governance and the challenge of cyber security cannot be tacked by the government alone.

He added that preserving functionality in cyber space is a mammoth challenge and there fore he emphasised on a need for Public Private Partnership.

Earlier, in his welcome speech, Director General, IDSA, Dr Arvind Gupta said, that the report, written in a non-technical style, is aimed at raising awareness about the dynamic nature of cyberspace and cyber security challenges that India is facing.

He further added, that in analyzing the various dimensions of cyber security challenge to India, the Task Force argues that India must foresee and plan for various challenges arising out of the growth of internet and digitalization of governance. Failure to do so can be catastrophic and could affect national security, Indian economy and social stability. India is particularly vulnerable to the threats from cyber crime, cyber terrorism, cyber espionage and cyber warfare. India’s critical infrastructure is also vulnerable.

A panel discussion on Indian Cyber Security- Way forward was held after the NSA’s speech. Chairing the session, deputy National Security Advisor, Vijay Latha Reddy said that the government is putting together an architecture involving various agencies and departments to deal with cyber security. DG, CERT-IN, Dr Gulshan Rai, said that dealing with daily attacks in cyber space requires a global approach.

Chief Information Security Officer, Airtel, Felix Mohan gave an example of a successful public private partnership between CERT–IN and Airtel during the Common Wealth Games where over 8000 cyber attacks in two weeks were foiled. Lt General Aditya Singh (Retd.) and General HJS Sachdev spoke at length about the need to be prepared to deal with challenges of network centric force.

Joint Secretary (IT), Ministry of External Affairs, Harsh Jain gave an account of government of India’s participation at the international forum on cyber security. He said India has ongoing cyber security dialogue with Japan, South Korea and the United States.

All speakers emphasised the need for proactive planning in cyber security.

The IDSA had set up a Task Force in 2011 to explore the diverse dimensions of cyber security challenge that India is facing. The Task Force was headed by Nitin Desai, former Member of the NSAB, and comprised Director General, IDSA, Dr Arvind Gupta, Lt Gen (retd.) Aditya Singh, former Member of the NSAB; Dr. Kamlesh Bajaj, CEO, Dta Security Council of India; B J Srinath, CERT-IN;  Salman Waris, a Lawyer in a Delhi based law firm;  Amit Sharma, DRDO; Dr. Ajey Lele, IDSA; Dr Cherian Samuel, IDSA and Kapil Patil, Indian Pugwash Society.

The report argues that Government and the private sector give cyber security some priority in their security and risk management plans, and do this jointly. Being a report that is addressed to the security community in the widest sense and intended to stimulate public discussion, it relies on publicly available information.

The Cyber Security Report and Shiv Shankar Menon’s address is now available on IDSA website.

Press Release

 

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