Cyberattacks are rising, but there is an ideal patch


    In News

    • Ransomwares have emerged as the most predominant of malicious cyberattacks worldwide. 

    More about the Cyberattacks

    • Definition:
      • Cyberattacks are unwelcome attempts to steal, expose, alter, disable or destroy information through unauthorized access to computer systems.
      • Typically such forms of attacks to keep networks from functioning after encrypting data, are carried out by ransomware-seeking entities.
    • Ransomware:
      • In ransomware, the perpetrators demand hefty payments for the release of withheld data. 

    Recent cases of ransomware attacks

    • AIIMS Cyberattack:
      • The ransomware attack was faced by the servers of India’s premium institute, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences
      • Nearly 40 million health records were compromised and it took over two weeks for the systems to be brought online. 
    • Cyberattack on Solar Industries Limited:
      • A ransomware gang, BlackCat, breached the parent company of Solar Industries Limited, one of the Ministry of Defence’s ammunition and explosives manufacturers, and extracted over 2 terabytes of data.
    • Overall data:
      • Data shows that over 75% of Indian organisations have faced such attacks, with each breach costing an average of ?35 crores of damage


    • Potential:
      • There are other malwares that could infect all kinds of computer systems. 
      • With the lines between the physical and digital realms blurring rapidly, every critical infrastructure, from transportation, power and banking systems, would become extremely vulnerable to assaults from hostile state and non-state actors.
      • With the introduction of 5G and the arrival of quantum computing, the potency of malicious software, and avenues for digital security breaches would only increase.
    • Worldwide damage estimate:
      • This year, cybercrimes are expected to cause damage worth an estimated $8 trillion worldwide. 
    • What are the reasons for increasing Cyberattacks?
      • Increasing dependency on technology: 
        • As we grow faster, more and more systems are being shifted to virtual space to promote access and ease of use. 
        • However, the downside to this trend is the increased vulnerability of such systems to cyber-attacks. 
      • Asymmetric and covert warfare: 
        • Unlike, conventional warfare with loss of lives and eyeball-to-eyeball situations, cyber warfare is covert warfare with the scope of plausible deniability, i.e. the governments can deny their involvement even when they are caught. 
        • Therefore, cyber warfare has increasingly become the chosen space for conflict between nations.

    Government’s initiatives against cyberattacks 

    • Guidelines by CERT-In:
      • In 2022, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which is India’s cybersecurity agency, introduced a set of guidelines for organisations to comply with when connected to the digital realm. 
      • This included: 
        • The mandatory obligation to report cyberattack incidents within hours of identifying them, and 
        • Designating a point person with domain knowledge to interact with CERT-In. 
    • Penalty on data breaches:
      • India’s draft Digital Personal Protection Bill 2022 proposes a penalty of up to ?500 crores for data breaches. 
    • Defence:
      • Recently, India’s armed forces created a Defence Cyber Agency (DCyA), capable of offensive and defensive manoeuvres. 
    • State commands:
      • All Indian States have their own cyber command and control centres.
    • Cyber Surakshit Bharat Initiative: 
      • It is an initiative from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) that aims at creating a robust cybersecurity ecosystem in India. This program was in association with the National e-Governance Division (NeGD).
    • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C): 
      • The MHA launched this I4C Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre program to combat cybercrime in the country, through a coordinated and efficient method. 
    • Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre):
      • It is an installation under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
    • International treaties:
      • India has already signed cybersecurity treaties, where the countries include the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, South Korea and the European Union. 
      • Even in multinational frameworks such as the Quad and the I2U2 (which India is a member of) there are efforts to enhance cooperation in cyber incident responses, technology collaboration, capacity building, and in the improvement of cyber resilience
      • Yet, there is no truly global framework, with many operating in silos.


    • Need of a cyber security policy:
      • With cyber threats capable of undermining our critical infrastructure, industry and security, a comprehensive cyber security policy is the need of the hour.
    • Scarcity of workforce:
      • Most organisations lack the tools to identify cyberattacks, let alone prevent them. 
      • India also faces an acute scarcity of cybersecurity professionals.
        • Nearly two-thirds would find it challenging to respond to a cybersecurity incident due to the shortage of skills within their team.
      • India is projected to have a total workforce of around 3,00,000 people in this sector in contrast to the 1.2 million people in the United States.
    • Digital Geneva Convention:
      • Most of our organisations are private, and their participation remains limited in India’s cybersecurity structures. 
      • They would be advised to look at the Digital Geneva Convention, where over 30 global companies have signed a declaration to protect users and customers from cyber breaches and collaborate with like-minded intergovernmental and state frameworks. 
    • Need for a global framework:
      • With most cyberattacks originating from beyond our borders, international cooperation would be critical to keeping our digital space secure.

    Way ahead

    • Budgetary preference:
      • Significant budgets have to be allocated by various ministries to ensure that cyber security measures don’t remain the last priority. 
    • Capacity enhancement: 
      • The capacity enhancement for the National Critical Information Infrastructure Centre (NCIIPC) and CERTIn has to be undertaken to address the emerging sophisticated nature of threats and attacks and sectoral CERTs have to be set up for many areas including health. 
    • Cooperation with G20:
      • The G-20 summit this year in India, which will see participation by all the stakeholders driving the global levers of power, is a rare opportunity to bring together domestic and international engagement groups across the spectrum, and steer the direction of these consultations. 
      • India could make an effort to conceptualise a global framework of common minimum acceptance for cybersecurity


    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What is a ransomware attack? Examine the gravity of the vulnerability of India’s critical institutions towards Cyberattacks. Suggest measures to tackle such attacks effectively.