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Opening Remarks by Ambassador Sujan R Chinoy on “India’s Cyber Preparedness” | 29 January 2021

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  • Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy
    January 29, 2021
    Opening Remarks by Ambassador Sujan R Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA
    ‘India’s Cyber Preparedness’
    29 January 2021

    Good afternoon. I wish to extend a warm welcome to all our distinguished guests and participants.

    At the very outset, I would like to thank Shri Gulshan Rai for sparing his valuable time to address members of the strategic community at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA). Shri Rai will deliver a lecture on the vital subject of ‘India’s Cyber Preparedness’. Shri Rai was the Director General of CERT-IN and headed the E-Security and Cyber Law Division, STQC and other Divisions in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. He was also India’s first National Cyber Security Coordinator at the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). With over 35 years of experience, he has had a ringside view of India’s cyber preparedness.

    ‘India’s Cyber Preparedness’ is a very pertinent topic, particularly against the backdrop of the COVID-19 induced shift to an even greater reliance on artificial intelligence (AI), surveillance technologies, online platforms and big data.

    Today, we are witnessing the creation of new inflection points for India’s as well as the global economy. E-commerce, including online start-ups and delivery apps for groceries and merchandise, has seen a spurt in business. Online entertainment platforms, TV serials and home entertainment have seen a surge in scope and stock value.

    The shuttering of schools and universities has meant a huge boost for online education, distance learning and self-employment opportunities. Home learning with one-on-one lessons have spawned a new industry for those with adequate access to computers, broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity, with the advantage going to nations that enjoy greater internet penetration. This has also meant huge stress on existing bandwidth capacities for network and telecom service providers.

    This sudden surge in users and data flow in the digital space is redefining the very notion of critical infrastructure in the cyber domain. It has created vast new attack surfaces in personal computers for hackers and cybercriminals, both state and non-state actors alike.

    The use of the internet and network security cannot be disaggregated. While no network is a hundred per cent immune to attack, a stable and efficient network security system is vital.

    Cyberspace is now seen as the 5th dimension of warfare by NATO, after land, sea, air and space. A well-coordinated cyber war can cripple a nation and undermine its economic stability. It also has the potential to undermine a nation’s military preparedness to some extent.

    India is amongst the top three countries in the world facing cyber-attacks, including ransomware attacks. At risk are state and business secrets, personal identities, client data, vulnerable banking and financial transactions and much more.

    The three key objectives identified by India for a secure cyber space include preventing cyber-attacks, reducing national vulnerability to cyber-attacks and minimising damage and recovery time from cyber-attacks. We have multiple agencies working together to secure our networks. This highlights the necessity of a harmonious interaction between them. There is also a need for capacity-building through greater skilling of cybersecurity professionals in the country.

    In a significant step, the Union Cabinet Committee on Security recently approved a new National Security Directive on Telecommunications Sector which will mandate service providers to purchase equipment from trusted sources. The decision of the government to maintain the integrity of the supply chain in the telecom sector is a welcome step, long in the making. Presumably, this will eliminate dubious foreign suppliers whose products have been suspected of harbouring backdoors and vulnerabilities that could be misused during hostilities.

    In one stroke, the directive has integrated the objective of achieving supply chain security in the telecom sector with the all-important Atmanirbhar Bharat mission.

    The new directive of Government of India dovetails seamlessly into global initiatives that aim to create resilience in telecom supply chains. It does so by boosting India’s domestic capacities as well and freeing Indian telecom service providers from an abject reliance on foreign equipment, including from dubious sources. Given that threats to national security are ‘source agnostic’, Indian pubic telecom networks could potentially face threats in equipment sourced from any foreign supplier, regardless of the country of origin. This suggests that Indian regulators must develop the necessary test beds capable of running diagnostics on all equipment, including that produced by Western companies.

    In the ultimate analysis, India should rely more on indigenously manufactured equipment. The recent directive will help India better protect the confidentiality and integrity of its telecommunications networks while facilitating ‘data in motion’.

    With these words, I now invite Shri Gulshan Rai to deliver his lecture on ‘India’s Cyber Preparedness’. His talk will be followed by a Q&A session.

    Thank you.