Waking up to the dangers of cyber attacks on its vital installations and government sites that have seen a spiralling increase in the past few years, India is entering into a collaboration with the US to learn how to develop a robust cyber security mechanism to safeguard its key and critical infrastructure areas.
To begin with, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team’s (Cert-In) two-day joint exercise with its US counterpart got underway on Wednesday. The two agencies will launch full-scale cyber attacks like phishing, network-probing, spread of malicious code like virus, worms and spam against each other in the virtual world and would also apply all defence mechanism at their command to thwart those attacks.
Afterwards, both agencies will analyse each others’ areas of vulnerability in detail and suggest possible safeguards and would even workout fresh security programmes.
“It is not a secret that we are vulnerable to cyber attacks that are coming in increasing numbers from China and Pakistan besides some private hackers. We are hoping to learn a lot from the US, which perhaps has developed the most advanced robust cyber security mechanism. This will help us develop a cyber security infrastructure about which prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke at the police chiefs’ conference,” a senior official said.
The cyber security collaboration is an offshoot of the idea that was first mooted in the talks between Union home secretary RK Singh and deputy secretary of the US department of homeland security, Jane Lute in April.
“We have been seeking help from various countries in cyber security but this is for the first time that a joint exercise is being held under a long-term collaboration programme. India is also constituting a new cyber security architecture under the NSA,” former Union home secretary GK Pillai told DNA.
Cyber security experts in the government concede India’s weakness in countering cyber attacks from neighbouring countries and handling of powerful malwares like Flame and Stuxnet.
In a report to Parliament in May, CERT-In observed that there was significant increase in the number of cyber security attacks on vital installations and key government ministries like PMO and Union home ministry. A total of 8,266, 10,315 and 13,301 security incidents were reported to and handled by Cert-In during 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.
According to data compiled by the home ministry, 1,791 cases were registered under the Information Technology (IT) Act in 2011 against 966 in 2010 — an increase of over 85%. Cyber cases under the Indian Penal Code went up by 18.5% in 2011.