Cyber security threats have recently emerged as the new defining security challenge in a networked global Internet economy. This explains why National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and his deputy Vijay Latha Reddy Reddy are focussed on engaging the private sector.
Like others with similar responsibilities, the national security administration is more deeply concerned about security breaches and attacks through computers, mobiles and other devices than a physical act of war, and, in some cases, even a terrorist strike.
Such cyber attacks, if successful, will originate through the telecom network, computers, switching systems owned by the private sector and will impact, among others, financial corporations and intellectual property.
It is for this reason that the government and the private sector will need to work as multiple entities with a single focus. Beyond critical policy issues, the two stakeholders will need to build technical expertise, which is far more prevalent in the private sector, given its access to cyber-savvy talent as well as incentive and reward structures, to push the boundaries on the commercially driven technological solutions.
Another major lacuna this initiative will need to address is the scant attention paid to issues of cyber security by CEOs of large Indian companies and public sector units, who remain either apathetic to, or uninformed of, both the consequences and dangers of potential cyber attacks.
This apathy is despite the fact that given the massive private economy in India, a serious cyber attack will not only cause a large financial damage but also hit India’s reputation as the world’s back-office, hurt stock prices and severely degrade the value of companies.
In fact, new technologies which are capable of crippling operations in sectors that are mostly, if not entirely, dependent on an array of mobile devices and computer networks can make minor malware and virus threats of the past seem insignificant.
Furthermore, the engagement will need to extend across civil society and the academia since their concerns over privacy, interceptions, surveillance, blocking and takedowns are intrinsically linked to any government action to protect against cyber attacks.