The event on 1st July, 2015, in which our Prime Minister Modi launched the Digital India project along with the battery of industrialists was very very impressive.
I suppose Mr Arnab Goswami and the Congress must be squirming within themselves to some where find a fault. As luck would have it, an incident was reported yesterday that certain content changes were made on Wikipedia regarding Jawaharlal Nehru and his lineage and it was reportedly done from an IP address/email address traced to NIC. The ever eager Congress spokes person, Mr Sanjay Jha started saying that Modi Government is responsible for this and the more sinister TV anchor Mr Gaurav Sawant of India Today further prompted that this could have been engineered by RSS.
As long as such tendencies remain in the media and the opposition, any good intentioned project of the Government of India will be facing all kinds of opposition and the Digital India Project will also face a determined opposition both from irresponsible opposition parties like Congress as well as motivated media.
It is therefore even possible that in future, the opposition may actually sponsor cyber attacks from NIC addresses or on Government assets only to deride the Digital India program of Narendra Modi. It is therefore to be considered that opposition parties and motivated media would be among the “Threats” that the Cyber Security planners need to factor in.
It was good to hear the PM speak of “Netizens” and “Cyber Security”, two terms which you find in abundance in our discussions in this blog over the last 15+ years. In fact a few years back when elections were being held in Karnataka for the assembly in which Congress won, the undersigned had proposed a “Charter of Demand” by netizens urging political parties to take it up as part of their election manifesto. I am sure that they did not understand the import of what was being suggested. But it is heartening to now hear Mr Modi speaking in similar language.
Skeptics will point out that making declarations and implementing them are two different things. By my personal experience, I have had enough disillusionment on various developments and therefore skepticism comes naturally even to me. However, being an optimist by nature, I always hope, that this time it would be different. Afterall Mr Modi has the right intentions and so far we never had a person like him at the helm of affairs. We only had persons like Kapil Sibal or Manmohan Singh incapable of seeing beyond the political domain.
There is no doubt that India has enough talent in IT and it should also mean that we should have enough talent in Cyber Security. Before Mr Modi pointed out yesterday, even the industry champions would have never thought of the possibility that India should look to be a leader in Cyber Security !. Vision of Modi is therefore far ahead of Mukesh Ambani, Cyrus Mistry or Azim Premji. ..probably because these stalwarts have seen how the Governments used to function under the previous regimes and got used to the “Rules of UPA” where only money and personal connections worked. It is easy for some of the journalists to cry hoarse about “tainted” businessmen but we must agree that many of the businessmen became tainted by coercion from politicians. Now that the atmosphere has changed, there is a need to recognize that those businessmen who carry some “taint” in the past need to be given an opportunity to work honestly in the new regime.
However, persons like Arnab Goswami who donot care about the country are sure to put spokes into any new radical initiative of the Government including the Digital India concept and if this project has to succeed, we need to work our way around such malware in the society.
These thoughts were vindicated by the discussions on the TV media about the Nehru wikipedia issue. Most of us know that the objected content was already in circulation in You Tube and every body knew about it. Such contents will continue to be available on the Internet in the future also. We (also the media) should learn to differentiate the real cyber crime issues from random trolling on twitter or elsewhere. Rather than making statements on TV that Modi Government should take responsibility etc, I would have appreciated the media to have just warned of the dangers that the Internet presents and why some kind of regulation is essential if Internet is to be used for the benefit of the society.
Readers may be surprised to know that a few years back the Chief Minister Mr Yeddyurappa in a speech at the Cyber Security Summit in Bangalore declared Bangalore to be the “Cyber Security Capital”. In doing so it had been envisioned that Bangalore would undertake all necessary activties to make it the global center of cyber security activities. Of course it remained only a declaration in the summit and nothing much happenned there after. Presently Bangalore is ironically called the “Cyber Crime Capital” and no body is even concerned. We donot want the current Modi project to go the same way.
In this context we need to point out that the media and several politicians including those from BJP hailed the decision of the Supreme Court when Section 66A was scrapped for all the wrong reasons. Only Naavi.org called it a “Black Day” and tried to draw the attention of everybody including the IT Minister all in vain. How can Digital India project take shape without a consesus on laws regarding cyber defamation and privacy, only God knows.
In the months preceding to Sec 66A scrapping, I have also brought to the attention of the Government about the serious gap in the Cyber Judiciary system with the closure of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal. Unfortunately the Ministry which includes the many scientists who work there have not been able to take corrective steps. In Bangalore one Adjudicating officer has redefined law to suit cyber criminals and the current Adjudicator is having such a closed mind that he is unable to see through the problem. This has rendered Karnataka a Haven for Cyber Criminals. But our politicians including the Union IT Ministry continue to talk without even attending to small things on the ground.
In this background I would like Mr Modi to know that most Cyber Security professionals in closed circles are disbelieving the efficacy of the Digital India implementation. But we all love Mr Modi and his honesty and therefore many may not raise their doubts in the public..except of course the undersigned.
In my opinion, industry can be counted upon to lay down the nation wide Optic Fiber network which Modi rightly called the I-Way. But the Government should be ready to ensure that the network is secured against vandalism and interception. Similarly, every E Governance, M- Governance project needs to be vetted for security..not from a China sponsored security group but a group supported only by the Government.
This requires a policy today before the first set of Optic Fiber cables are laid down and first set of roads are laid in a smart city. The industry would be interested in selling and installing the cables but they would hardly be expected to worry about the security. We may therefore end setting up an entire infrastructure of I-Way which apart from carrying the digital data will also become the “CC-Way” i.e., a high way for Cyber Criminals.
If we donot understand this problem and take corrective action today, 5 years from now we will be ruing the very decision of setting up of the I-Way.
I donot expect Mr Modi as the CEO of the country be fully aware of these risks. The CTO of the country namely Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad may also be focussing more on the infrastructure build up and he may not be expected to take full control of the Cyber Security issue. But it is the duty of the CISO of the country to take care of the security issues that accompany the Digital India project.
But the moot point is who is the CISO of Digital India?
Will the NIC be capable of taking up this responsibility? There is the recent warning signal and many in the past which does not provide the confidence.
Will the NSA be also the CISO of India?.. Perhaps it is too much to expect.
Of course there is a Cyber Security Advisor in Mr Gulshan Rai in the PMO. Will he be the designated CISO of India?
We may also ask, Will the CISO be a single person? or will it be a body like the IN-CERT? or will it a NASSCOM body such as DSCI?
If so, Where were they in yesterday’s Digital India presentation?
If we look at the threats around us such as the “Malicious Codes” -both digital and human that we need to confront with, and knowing the vulnerabilities of our administrative set up, the risks are too obvious.
But have we made a conscious effort to list down the risks and their “G0vernance Impact”? .. It is necessary for the Netizens of the country to be assured in this regard before we welcome the Digital India project whole heartedly.
During the Digital India launch, I wished that Mr Modi would speak of the “Cyber Insurance Industry” but no such discussion happenned. I want the Government to recognize that Netizens cannot be exposed to the risks which even experts find it difficult to fathom when the Digital India, Smart City or IOT projects take shape.
When we need to move from Snail Governance to E Governance and then onto M-Governance and APP based Governance, we need to simultaneously assure the Netizens that they are protected from the risks arising out of this transition.
This is as much a necessity as the Health Insurance and Life Insurance schemes which Mr Modi has introduced as part of Social Security. In the Digital India, most of the Citizens will depend on the Government for security and Insurance when the security fails.
Hence Cyber Insurance should be a strong pillar on which the Digital India concept should be built up. I felt that this was not addressed by Mr Modi yesterday. It is perhaps the failure of the bureaucrats in not providing Cyber Insurance as a Risk Transfer mechanism for Netizens, but I would still wait for Mr Modi to express his views on Cyber Insurance in the days to come.
I suppose the department of IT which should be monitoring posts such as these will bring it to the notice of Mr Modi so that some action can be worked out in this direction before it is too late.
I want to reiterate that the IT industry whch will reap the benefits of the Rs 450,000 lakh crores is unlikely to advise the PM in this regard properly since “Security” and “Insurance” will increase the costs and reduce the profits. We have seen Banks declaring that “We will provide only that much security as is commercially feasible” and RBI does not even recognize the import of such policy statements.
Hence PM must have Cyber Security advisers who will be empowered to question every IT project implementation from security angle even if it is implemented by Reliance Geo or TCS or Wipro.
All this needs to be built into a “Cyber Security Governance and Management Infrastructure” that should be in place before the Digital India project takes off. But yesterday we have launched the Digital India project and banking on the old National Cyber Security policy which is not a full fledged implementable agenda.
I hope that in the coming few weeks some thing will happen in this direction.
I invite the attention of Mr Nandakumar Sarvade who has recently taken over as the CEO of DSCI to let us know what will be the role of DSCI in establishing a Cyber Security Framework which is Netizen oriented and not IT vendor oriented.
Related Article: Charter of Demand on behalf of Netizens of Bangalore