With increasing focus on privacy and security in both user and enterprise fronts, cybersecurity has become an important focus area. And with the emergence of AI and 5G the cybersecurity space is witnessing rapid changes. In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu, Dr. Sanjay Katkar, CTO and joint MD, Quick Heal Technologies Limited talks about the impact of AI, layoffs in the tech industry on cybersecurity, and more
What are some of the major cyber security threats that people should be on the lookout for?
Dr. Sanjay Katkar: Cybersecurity encompasses consumers and enterprise security. If we look on the consumer front, we continue seeing trends towards targeting of mobile devices using spying apps, loans apps, scam apps. Regular threats that target Windows OS in PCs and laptops using ransomware are also a big problem. We regularly witness more than 34 new scam apps coming up on app stores every week. On the Enterprise, data breaches are the main focus because most organisations are moving to the cloud, which is an attractive avenue for cybercriminals as there is huge demand for data that can be sold on the dark web . When talking about ransomware, attacks we expect them to increase.
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Do you think big tech layoffs will impact cybersecurity? If yes, what are the possible repercussions?
SK: It depends where the layoffs happen and the departments they impact. We are observing that most of the organisation’s layoffs are happening in non-cybersecurity related areas. Cyber security demand remains quite high and we haven’t seen any slump in demand for cyber security related talent, or services.
What kind of an impact do you think Artificial Intelligence (AI) can have on cybersecurity?
SK: AI is definitely helping in improving cybersecurity. Over the years the volume of cyberattacks has increased, from a couple of attacks a week in the 90s to almost a million new malware being reported per day. We cannot analyse or sort or work on protection technologies without the help of ML (Machine Learning). And data used for training AI and ML models is immense and it can further help develop AI to better understand and create improved protection systems for future use. AI is also beneficial in recognising patterns that may have been missed by humans, and it can run 24X7, which allows for more efficient capturing, reporting and alerting against cybersecurity threats.
Since a lot of companies are now expanding end-to-end encryption in the services they offer, do you think this will impact the cybersecurity and antivirus market?
SK: Encryption is happening but it has its downsides as well. End-to-end encryption makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to crack down cybercrime-related cases as it makes it very difficult to trace the activities of threat actors. There is always this challenge for the government, they’ll keep on coming out with regulations including in areas like having servers in India or data localization. On the other hand, it also poses a problem for providers like Microsoft, Google and Apple in regard to ensuring users’ security.
With the war in Ukraine showing no signs of resolution anytime soon, is cybersecurity affected by the ongoing hostilities?
SK: Data wiping and spying are some of the more common attacks we have witnessed in the European region. This has made the Indian community alert. People are trying to learn from others’ mistakes and they are trying to see what the gaps are in the cybersecurity space. Indian organisations working for Russia or for European countries, especially the ones working in supply chains, have witnessed an increase in the volume of attacks. As soon as there is a new vulnerability there is a surge in the number of attacks. And once the patch is available things get under control.
How do you see the cybersecurity risks within the Indian market.
SK: The younger generation directly started using cell phones and smartphones. Usage of laptops has gone down a little except during the pandemics. With this shift, cybersecurity’s focus has also shifted. In terms of OS percentage windows has given way to android in terms of number of users across India.
And though Windows is still witnessing cyber threats, at the same time, Microsoft has made their operating system cloud-based, which is like regularly getting updated through the cloud. And also, now you have to have an operating system PC or your PC connected to the internet almost all the time which has increased the risk of being attacked. On the other hand, regulations on the data and privacy are getting tighter. Whoever is collecting user data or any kind of data will have to take responsibility for protecting it. So we expect user security to improve.
With the Indian government focussing on the development of BharOS and AI models within the country, do you think they could pose a privacy risk for users?
SK: I don’t think it will have an immediate impact. For any operating system to become a standard, it takes a long time. Firstly, it has to have mass adoption for it to become a target for cyber criminals. However, with BharOS the government might adopt it for use in certain departments or in very critical infrastructure. BharOS may not become a consumer operating system because everything that the current consumer is using is quite dependent on Android. The OS has a big possibility of being used by a niche in critical sectors so the attacks will focus mostly on that and since these sectors are more state sponsored. Cybercriminals will be less interested in these kinds of attacks but States will be more interested in attacking these 0S.
With an increase in digitisation, do you expect cybersecurity threats to increase especially as 5G is rolled out to more and more cities?
SK: Earlier, the focus was on PCs but they have given way to smartphones. Threat actors have also started focusing and as users do not expect smartphones to be targeted or get infected it increases the risk factor. In organisations in manufacturing units, with 5G they will have the capacity to create local networks for use in smart devices used within the manufacturing unit. These would include sensors with the ability to transmit live data to improve production. If these networks come under ransomware attacks, it could hijack and stop production hampering industrial output. This is something we need to be careful about because these sensors cannot be protected by themself due to their small footprint.
Threat actors will target Public Sector Units (PSU) like in sectors oil, refinery or power sector with nuclear power plants. These units can also be targets for nation-state attacks which are much more persistent and sophisticated.