Public authorities in India are vulnerable to cyber attacks as government and corporate leaders in the country are shockingly not even aware of the dangers and sophisticated methods used by hackers, a senior UN official has said.
"The recent hacking of Council of Indian School Certificate Examination and CBSE websites by a 20 year old student has once again demonstrated the vulnerability of public authorities in India to cyber attacks," said Babu Lal Jain, senior adviser to the UN Office for Partnerships, said.
"Though the attack was sans any malicious motive and caused no damage, it was to prove in the words of the perpetrator, how unsecure the sites were on which depended the fate of millions of school-leaving students trying to enter into careers of their choice," he told PTI in an interview.
"What to talk of taking counter measures, shockingly a majority of Government and corporate leaders in India are not even aware of the dangers and sophistication of methods employed by the hackers these days."
Not only the state and military secrets coveted by the other state spying agencies as well as economic and commercial intelligence of value to business rivals, the hackers these days have no qualms in selling the information they steal to the highest bidder, including gangs engaged in credit card frauds and other criminal activities, he said.
Besides the young techies and nerds who indulge in hacking for fun and as a challenge to break into important and tightly secured sites, crime syndicates are on the prowl to steal passwords, account details and personal information to indulge in illegal money transfers, ATM withdrawals and other damaging activities.
With most of the critical infrastructure like electricity grids, ports, railways, airports, banking and financial services etc dependent on the Internet for efficient working, real time information and communications, the dangers of hackers in league with terrorist groups disrupting essential services and causing large scale economic and social chaos cannot be over emphasised, Jain said.
After loading a standard anti-virus and firewall software, most of the authorities and corporate entities in India feel that they have secured their systems and network from cyber intrusions.
In their complacency and false sense of security they conveniently ignore media reporting at regular intervals hacking of government and other websites and e-mails including that of the White House and Pentagon, he said.
"Little do they realise that the actual number of such cases is many times over the ones reported? “While many public authorities and corporate entities are too embarrassed to admit the failure of security and some are in the denial mode, most of them do not even come to know that somebody had stealthily entered their supposedly secure space and decamped with invaluable data and information," Jain added.
He said along with efforts by the government, a widespread public and corporate awareness program needs to be launched to ensure that all internet users, whether individuals or corporate, start becoming conscious of their responsibility and take necessary measures themselves to ensure safety and security of the cyber space.
"We should also not be shy of collaborating with the like-minded countries which face similar threats and have made more advances in this field, at least till the time we are able to catch up with the best in the world.
"Our companies and industry should also look for their sector specific partners abroad to forge tie-ups for mutual benefit," he said.
It is heartening to note that Prime Minster’s Office has recently proposed Rs 1000 crore (Rs 10 billion) to be utilised over a period of four years to push India's cyber security efforts.
Image: A man types on a keyboard in Warsaw, Poland; Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters