Indians using the Internet have every reason to be concerned about cyber crooks snooping into their accounts and online data. Even the government, it seems, is not safe from cyber attacks. Recent revelations show that the National Security Agency in USA has spied upon sensitive establishments in many countries. According to some reports even the BJP has been targeted by the NSA.
In recent period there have been several media reports on how the NSA has real-time access to conversations and chats on Skype, Gmail and other platforms. USA is in position to catch hold of every piece of digital communication, be it email, voice chat or video. This is because much of the world's electronic communications passes through the United States, and the electronic communications data tend to follow the least expensive route rather than the most physically direct route, and the bulk of the world's internet infrastructure is based in the United States.
Due to the rise in cyber spying cases and other online threats, the Narendra Modi government is preparing to set up a Rs. 950 crore security centre – the National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC). This proposed centre will coordinate between intelligence and cyber response agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) to ensure a more robust defence of critical Indian computer systems.
A 250-page note has already been prepared for final approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to set up the NCCC. The CCS is likely to clear the project soon. The CCS note mentions that the NCCC will be headed by an officer of joint secretary rank.
The NCCC might as well be a step in the right direction, as there have been lot of concerns about about the net security practices that India is using. On June 25th, hackers had managed to break into the National Informatics Centre (NIC), which runs emails of all the central government officials as well as websites of various ministries. The hackers managed to gain information on the root directory that hosts the sensitive data. They issued several fake digital certificates which went undetected for days.
A survey by a government agency shows over 780 attacks that damaged sensitive computers across 88 cities and over 350 hacking attempts on sensitive computer systems last year. At a recent meeting of the National Information Board (NIB), chaired by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, many of these vulnerabilities were discussed. The NIB's members include intelligence chiefs, the director general of CERT-IN and a joint secretary from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Its role is to review all aspects of information security and take measures to counter emerging threats.
The mandate of NCCC is not only to safeguard the country’s cyber frontiers, but also to carry out “real-time assessment of cyber security threats” and “generate actionable reports/alerts for proactive actions” by law enforcement agencies. As of now it is not clear if the NCCC will be in a position to read emails and Facebook or Twitter updates, but a federal cyber security agency would generally have that kind of powers.
The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also being involved in the project to ensure round-the-clock monitoring of the Internet. The NCCC would be in virtual contact with the control room of all ISPs to scan traffic within the country, flowing at the point of entry and exit, including international gateway.Apart from monitoring the Internet, the NCCC would look into various threats posed by cyber attacks. -Shail Verma