India Insights with Geetha Nandikotkur

Critical Infrastructure Security , Cybercrime , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

New Cyber Agency to Battle Against Hackers

But Will This Latest Effort Have a Meaningful Impact?
New Cyber Agency to Battle Against Hackers

The government of India has created a Defense Cyber Agency that's designed to help in the battle against hackers. The Defense Ministry has approved Navy Rear Admiral Mohit Gupta to be the first head of the agency, sources at the Defense Ministry say, according to ANI.

See Also: When Every Identity is at Risk, Where Do You Begin?

But does the creation of this agency represent a meaningful strategic initiative or a narrower tactical effort?

India needs to build a specialized team with the right skills and capabilities to devise resilient threat intelligence programs, respond rapidly to cyber incidents to minimize the impact and conducting forensic investigations to analyze data after incidents and discover patterns that enable organizations to better defend their infrastructure.

While it is not clear if the government plans to enable the new agency to take up all these tasks, it seems to be setting the right direction. The agency must also devise a framework for protecting the infrastructure.

The new agency chief has yet to reveal an action plan. Sources say the cyber agency, which will be based in New Delhi, will have units spread across India, with units or cells of dedicated officers at every headquarters.

The new agency will be set up under under the Integrated Defense Staff, pooling talent from the Army, Air Force and Navy, according to Lt. Gen. M. M. Naravane, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command.

But a collaborative effort involving the National Technical Research Organization, The Research and Analysis Wing, the National Cyber Coordination Center and the Defense Research Development Organization is needed to develop an effective cybersecurity framework to train the team and ensure a strategic, rather than tactical, approach.

In addition to setting up the cyber agency, the Ministry of Defense also plans to create a space agency to help guard the nation's physical boundaries.

Battling the Threats

On an almost daily basis, hackers, including those from Pakistan and China, are attempting to break into India's military systems to steal information and create disruption, Defense Ministry Sources tell ANI.

Some recent incidents include:

  • India's Ministry of Defense was allegedly hacked last April, when Chinese hackers apparently stole critical information;
  • On Sept. 11, 2018, sensitive data on an undisclosed number of soldiers, including their personnel numbers and Permanent Account Number details, was leaked from government payment websites;
  • The websites of the Ministry of External Affairs, Indo Tibetan Border Police and the Defense Research and Development Organization have reportedly been repeatedly attacked.

In addition, Chinese hackers were suspected of hacking into an Indian government network, intruding into a secret government meeting that involved a video chat via satellite, The New Indian Express reports. The hackers controlled the video link for several minutes before a counter-offensive was launched to neutralize it. The IP address was traced to China, according to the news report.

And Praful Bakshi, defense and security analyst and former spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, said in a blog that last June, Pakistani hackers compromised many Indian websites including National Aeronautics, Army Institute of Management and Technology, Army Institute of Management and the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences.

Key Challenge

Some security pracitioners say a key challenge for the new cyber agency will be training the necessary staff.

"Merely creating cybersecurity agencies every year won't work," one Indian cybersecurity training expert, who asked not to be named, tells me. "We have started training our defense staff, but the maturity is yet to be achieved."

India could learn some important lessons from Singapore's Ministry of Defense, which has trained 2,600 cyber warriors as part of its cyberdefense strategy, focusing on protecting all critical information infrastructure sectors by supporting the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore.

About the Author

Geetha Nandikotkur

Geetha Nandikotkur

Vice President - Conferences, Asia, Middle East and Africa, ISMG

Nandikotkur is an award-winning journalist with over 20 years of experience in newspapers, audiovisual media, magazines and research. She has an understanding of technology and business journalism and has moderated several roundtables and conferences, in addition to leading mentoring programs for the IT community. Prior to joining ISMG, Nandikotkur worked for 9.9 Media as a group editor for CIO & Leader, IT Next and CSO Forum.

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