National

I&B Ministry warns officials on data security

The order said that confidential and restricted information could be shared on Internet via networks having a commercial Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit mechanism. 

The order said that confidential and restricted information could be shared on Internet via networks having a commercial Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit mechanism.  | Photo Credit: AP

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has prohibited the sharing of top secret or secret documents by its officials over Internet. They have also been told not to use digital assistant devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s HomePod and Google Home in the office and turn off digital assistants, including Alexa and Siri, in their smartphones or watches.

The officials are required to deposit their smart phones outside the meeting room during discussions on classified issues, said the order that has been issued in view of the finding that a large number of government officials use private messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram for communication of classified information. The Ministry said such a practice violated the Departmental Security instructions and the National Information Security Policy Guidelines.

Accordingly, the Ministry has directed that top secret and secret documents be shared only in a closed network with the leased line connectivity where the Scientific Analysis Group (SAG) grade encryption mechanism is deployed. The SAG functions under the Defence Research & Development Organisation.

The order said that confidential and restricted information could be shared on Internet via networks having a commercial Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit mechanism. The Ministry has recommended the use of government email facility or government instant messaging platforms such as the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing’s Samvad and the National Informatics Centre’s Sandesh for communicating such information.

The Ministry cautioned that the classification of top secret or secret information should not be downgraded to “confidential” or “restricted” for the purpose of sharing it over Internet.

‘Proper firewalls’

“In the context of e-office system, it is advised that proper firewalls and whitelisting of IP addresses are to be deployed. The e-office server may be accessed through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for enhanced security,” it said, adding that top secret or secret information should be shared over the e-office system only with the leased line closed network and SAG grade encryption mechanism.

With respect to videoconferencing for official purposes, the facilities provided by government agencies have to be used. Some additional precautions have been prescribed to ensure better security. Even then, top secret or secret information cannot be shared through videoconferencing.

The officials working from home have been told to use security-hardened electronic devices, including laptops and desktops, connected to the office servers through a VPN and firewall set-up. Top secret or secret information cannot be shared in the work-from-home environment, the Ministry said.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 13, 2022 4:56:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dont-share-top-secret-information-over-internet-ib-ministry-tells-its-officials/article65062137.ece