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On new Modi govt’s digital agenda — securing cyber space and a crackdown on cyber crime

The new Modi govt is set to adopt a multi-ministerial approach to tackle cyber crimes and create mass awareness.

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New Delhi: Cracking down on cybercrime and securing and regulating cyberspace, with a push for “indigenous solutions”, will be one of the top priority areas of the new Narendra Modi government, ThePrint has learnt.

The government will adopt a multi-ministerial approach — involving the ministries of defence, home affairs and electronics and information technology (MeitY) among others — to tackle cyber crimes and create mass awareness, senior sources in the government told ThePrint. External experts and stakeholders will be brought in, they added.

The matter has been under active discussion among officials in the last two months. The rising concern comes amid a growing number of cyber crimes and related threats to users.

Ministries to be assigned different roles

As part of the multi-ministerial approach, different ministries are to be assigned different roles.

For instance, the defence ministry has been tasked with ensuring awareness of cyber crimes among the armed forces, especially on how social media can be used for honey traps. The ministry has also been asked to routinely flag unlawful content relating to terrorism and radicalisation so that they can be blocked by the authorities.

India is setting up an agency under the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to deal with cyber threats. The cyber agency is in its final stages. The inter-services cyber agency will comprise talent from all three services — Army, Air Force and Navy — and will deal with threats in the cyber domain.

The Ministry of External Affairs has been tasked with international collaborations for cyber crimes.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is implementing two schemes — the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre and the Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children under the Nirbhaya fund of the Women and Child Ministry. The MHA is coordinating with all other stakeholders and ministries on the progress of the plans.

Also read: Govt spells out defence industry vision: $5 billion exports by 2025, leader in AI, cyberspace

MeiTY to monitor threats

Among other areas, an official said, MeiTY has been asked to routinely exchange threat feeds between the National Cybercrime Threat Analytical Unit and the CERT-in while the Department of Telecommunications will be coordinating with internet service providers to control cyber crimes and ensure that reasons for blocking websites are made public.

“Certification of forensic labs, setting up of new forensic labs, operationalising the National Cyber Research and Innovation Centre in New Delhi and the National Cyber Training Centre will be taken up on priority,” the official added.

In February, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while inaugurating the Cyber Crime Unit of Delhi Police and National Cyber Forensic Lab, had said that the MHA has constituted an expert group for a detailed study and initiated the creation of a Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, which will deal with cyber forensics, cyber investigation, cyber research and innovation, threat analytics and cyber training.

Need for awareness on cybersecurity

Top government officials also underlined the need for mass awareness on cybersecurity.

“Delhi Police, NCERT and the Ministry of Human Resource Development have been asked to create increased awareness on the subject, include chapters on cyber safety in school books and organise sessions on the subject for children,” a MeiTY official said. “As part of the plan, there would also be sufficient research carried out on indigenous solutions to detect and prevent cyber crimes.”

ThePrint had earlier reported that the MeiTY had asked all states to prepare their own cyber crisis management plans to deal with cyber attacks. The central government has a Cyber Crisis Management Plan (CCMP) in place for countering cyber-attacks and cyber-terrorism.

Last year, the PMO appointed a high-powered committee to study a wide range of online challenges, including cybersecurity and malicious content to come up with a framework to tackle them. Subsequently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) for a public-private partnership on cybersecurity at the National Security Council Secretariat, as part of a provision of the National Cyber Security Policy of 2013, which has been criticised by experts as a paper tiger.

A ‘Cybercrime Survey Report 2017’ by consulting firm KPMG had found that 79 per cent of Indian companies consider cybersecurity as one of their top five business risks.

Also read: The WhatsApp hack was possible because cyber warfare is a lawless land

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