India needs to act on cybersecurity. This is why

Saturday - 29/10/2016 03:15
“There are two types of organisations: those who have been hacked and those who don’t yet know they have been hacked.”
I recently stumbled upon this quote by John Chambers, executive chairman and former CEO of tech giant Cisco. It accurately describes where we in India are in terms of cyber security.

The recent data breach of debit cards left an estimated 3.2 million Indian customers vulnerable and is said to be the biggest such rupture in the country’s banking system to date. What happened was scary, but not entirely unexpected. Cyber security continues to be an after-thought in every sector in the country.

The Indian growth story is premised on startups so I asked a bunch of technology entrepreneurs how they balance agile product or service delivery and overall security. Their answers worried me. If those at the cutting-edge of technology treat cyber security as a “good to have,” it is overambitious to expect others to act differently.
India needs to act on cybersecurity

We are at the beginning of the 4th industrial revolution which would bring about the fusion of the physical, biological, and digital worlds. This fusion will churn out enormous amounts of data, fueled by ubiquitous connectivity, personalised computing, and advanced analytics. While this will empower people and organisations, it will also increase operational, systemic, and strategic risks in ways that are hard to predict. Today’s cyber threats reduce efficiency and drain resources. Tomorrow’s they could cause physical harm.

“Clouds of a bloodless war are hovering over the world,” prime minister Narendra Modi said while inaugurating the Digital India Week last year. He was referring to the growing worries across the world over cyber security. I reckon that cyber war might not be bloodless after all.

Think of self-driving cars and planes, a reality in the not-so-distant future. Imagine if someone hacks into the system that controls the sensors. It could cause mayhem at the push of a button. Think of healthcare data being used for predicting epidemics and planning interventions at the right stage. What if malware creeps into that? It could potentially wreck the pharmaceutical, insurance, and healthcare sectors.

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