According to the recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report on crime in India 2020, cases of cyber crime recorded an 11.8% increase in 2020, whereas the rates of most of the other serious crimes fell in the same period.
Several states in India have set up dedicated units to deal with cyber crimes. The union home ministry has a dedicated portal for reporting cyber crime —cybercrime.gov.in. Close to 200,000 complaints have been lodged since the portal was launched in January 2020.
In fact, the cyber frauds have increased in several countries during the pandemic.
Globally, the situation is much grimmer. The world is reeling against the barrage of ransomware attacks. Many times criminal hackers are suspected to live and work in adversarial nations, thus insulating themselves from penal actions. This makes it a “shared threat” for the comity of nations.
This has pushed several countries to plan a summit of “like-minded nations”.
According to a White House announcement-“India is among the four countries that have volunteered to organise and lead specific thematic discussions at the first-of-its-kind international meeting to counter ransomware convened by the Biden administration, that will chalk out a four-part strategy to address the challenges posed in the cyberworld”.
The proposed meet is expected to be joined by ministers and senior officials from over 30 countries and the European Union to accelerate cooperation to counter ransomware.
The fact sheet published by the White House for the event reads -“Ransomware payments reached over $400 million globally in 2020, and topped $81 million in the first quarter of 2021, illustrating the financially driven nature of these activities”.
The four strategies to neutralise the ransomware threat for discussions are:-
1. Disrupt Ransomware Infrastructure and Actors.
2. Bolster Resilience to Withstand Ransomware Attacks.
3. Address the Abuse of Virtual Currency to Launder Ransom Payments.
4. Leverage International Cooperation to Disrupt the Ransomware Ecosystem and Address Safe Harbors for Ransomware Criminals.
India, along with Australia, Germany and UK has volunteered to lead the discussions on particular topics. India will be tackling resilience, Austria, disruption, the UK will anchor virtual currency and Germany will helm diplomacy.
Besides these four, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, the EU, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UAE will join the meeting.
Countering this threat requires a galvanised global political will. So, this meet has the potential to emerge as a platform as G7 or North Atlantic Treasury Organisation (NATO) , or Financial Action Task Force (FATF), among others.
It is not as simple as it sounds. There is already a Europe-led Budapest Convention on cyber security, touted as the “first international treaty on crimes committed via the Internet and other computer networks, dealing particularly with infringements of copyright, computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security”. It also contains a series of powers and procedures such as the search of computer networks and interception. But there are serious apprehensions as well. India maintained its status as a non-member of the Budapest Convention, as there is hesitation that data sharing with foreign law enforcement agencies infringes on national sovereignty of India.
With several countries accusing each other of being responsible for cyberattacks, constructing a global order on cyber security is not that easy.
Recently, in June this year, a ransomware assault shut down the US-based meat plants of the world’s largest meatpacker-JBS. Weeks before, the largest US fuel pipeline, the East Coast’s Colonial Pipeline, was targeted by a cyber crime group.
So, not only the governments and national defense but also the critical infrastructures, in any sector are under the threat.
Digital India & cyber security
With India rapidly adopting digital activities and digitized platforms, it is but natural for Digital India to be on high alert. India also faces tough cyber-attacks from some hostile countries including immediate neighbours to countries as far as those in Europe.
On March 23, 2021, the Union Home Ministry informed the Parliament that cyber-attacks have risen exponentially, last year in the country, from 394,499 recorded in 2019, to 1,158,208, citing the data from Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). Simultaneously, India needs to be ahead of the curve.
Government of India has taken far reaching steps to thwart threats by enabling multi-layer structure by enabling & investing in agencies like MeitY, CERT-In, NCIIPC, NIC, NATgrid and Security Operations in critical infrastructure & segments.
MeitY has already launched the Cyber Surakshit Bharat Program to strengthen Cybersecurity in India. It was launched in association with the National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and industry partners. Cyber Surakshit Bharat is the first public-private partnership (PPP) of its kind and will leverage the expertise of the IT industry in cybersecurity. The founding partners include leading IT companies such as Microsoft, Intel, WIPRO, Redhat and Dimension Data. Its knowledge partners include Cert-In, NIC, NASSCOM and FIDO Alliance and premier consultancy firms Deloitte and EY.