Acknowledging that better indigenous snooping capabilities may not be enough to protect India’s cyber security, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon has advocated formulating a set of “standard operating procedures” (SOPs) — ground rules for cooperation which would help India succeed in obtaining Internet information from major powers that control much of cyber space.

In an internal note focusing on the cyber security challenges that India faces today and the way forward, Mr. Menon has said that apart from striving to augment its own capabilities, India needs to counter cyber warfare/terrorism through international cooperation rather than go it alone, particularly when attacks, espionage and anarchy in cyber space would remain a reality for a long time to come.

Stating that international cyber space was today an “anarchic, lawless domain”, Mr. Menon noted: “Instead of chasing a chimera and tying our prestige to it, it would be better to use our cyber security dialogues and international cooperation to achieve practical results…We might press partners for the sharing of data harvested from Indian users and sites, the purposes for which they were used, and the legal basis on which the acquisition was authorised. A practical goal would be to seek SOPs for security cooperation in cyber space with other major IT powers, rather than attempting grand pursuits.”

Noting that the U.S. and U.K. agencies and ISPs were “extremely stingy” in sharing information, Mr. Menon says: “When we seek data about or action against malicious or criminal activity, the US government and ISPs plead inability to respond due to privacy laws, as we found when social media were used to create panic and drive out North-Easterners from south and west India last summer.”

Underlining the difficulties India faces while dealing with cases of cyber crimes, Mr. Menon has said: “The basic infrastructure for telephony and Internet data (including the root servers and Internet service providers or ISPs) is overwhelmingly U.S.-owned and based.”

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