Indians are spending more and more time in Cyberspace. In the last decade, India’s wireless teledensity has increased from 5% to 75% and internet penetration from less than 1 million to 150 million users.

Globally, the cyberworld is allowing us to do much more in our personal and professional lives. Our productivity levels have increased dramatically and we’re far more efficient in almost all aspects of our lives than we were just about 5 years ago. Since 2003, global internet usage has increased from 360 million to over 2 billion users. In 2017, half the world is expected to be online.

Although this trend already has and continues to empower us, we’re getting increasingly dependent on the Internet and have no choice but to trust it with our personal, corporate and sovereign data. We’re no longer leaving behind digital footprints. We’re leaving behind digital shadows.

In India, most of our mobile devices are imported. The semiconductor chips that go into these devices are fabricated overseas and their IP is owned by foreign companies. The code for software embedded in these electronic devices is also foreign owned.

The Ministry of Communications and IT is encouraging indigenous manufacturing of electronics so that, hopefully sooner than later, our telecom networks will induct a higher share of Indian owned and manufactured equipment, and our country’s subscribers will use devices whose software and semiconductor chips will have Indian-owned IP. As a growing consumer of ICTs, this makes economic as well as strategic sense for us.

Conventional wars have historically been fought by state actors, using artillery ranging from guns to tanks, which then evolved into air and missile capabilities. The last few decades saw the rise of special forces, combat drones and IEDs, which are examples of both – sophisticated and crude –  force multipliers. Today, however, hackers sitting in any part of the world can disrupt Government services or steal valuable private data. The number of such cases being reported overseas and in India are growing. Hackers are faceless and virtual. For instance, viruses embedded in foreign telecom equipment can create havoc within our communications network.

Governments, therefore, need to put into place a system through which they can prevent cyber attacks and data theft, restore systems ASAP, identify perpetrators and bring  them to justice. This is no longer a technology issue, but a national security one.

The National Cyber Security Policy, drafted in close coordination with other strategic departments, is a welcome step in the right direction. It will enable the Government of India to build capacity, in terms of human and technological resources, so that we have world class processes and SOPs that will allow us to work closely with the private sector, state governments and other friendly nations to secure ourselves.

This policy will also safeguard every Indian’s privacy, every corporation’s  data and most importantly, our sovereign virtual assets, giving us greater economic competitiveness and strategic security.

I would like to congratulate all stakeholders and government departments, especially DEITy, who have helped formulate the National Cyber Security Policy 2013. We have a challenging task ahead of us and I wish all those who will be responsible for actioning the policy from here on my very best.

 

Click here to download the speech (PDF Version)