Opinion: Dynamic measures to strengthen national security on telecom

Written By: Shantanu Mukharji
NEW DELHI Updated: Dec 21, 2020, 11:54 AM(IST)

The defence establishment claims that the attack hit websites using the .GOV.IL domain, which is used for all government websites save for defence-related ones. (Representative Image). Photograph:( Reuters )

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It’s imperative to point out that India is among the top three countries in the world, vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

In an unprecedented and historic step, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) very recently approved a robust and sound security proposal to reinforce the security safeguards towards our National Telecom vulnerabilities awaiting since long for an effective redressal. 

In the same vein, it’s imperative to point out that India is among the top three countries in the world, vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In the year 2019, there were nearly four lakh cyber incidents and there was a colossal financial loss to the tune of 1.24 lakh crores. To put things in perspective, such cyber breaches are perpetrated by intercontinental devices and networks. Further, such risks are heightened by Internet Of Things (IOT) devices, adversely affecting the Telecom Network.

To meet these security-related challenges in the Telecom Sector, and to be in sync with the ‘Atmanirbhar’ policy of the government, for the first time, a bold decision was taken by issuing the National Security Directive on Telecom Sector. In this regard, the government is slated to declare a list of trusted sources / trusted products for the benefits of the Telecom Service Providers. The list of to be covered under this Directive and the dynamics are expected to be designed by the designated competent authority who is earmarked as the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC).

Under the new decision, the Deputy National Security Advisor (Dy NSA) of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), will head the committee which will be known as the National Security Committee on Telecom (NSCT). Importantly, the new Directive will not affect the ongoing Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC). The designated Authority will put in a place a portal for easy upload of applications by TSPS and equivalent vendors. Also, the Department of Telecommunications will make appropriate modifications in the License conditions towards the implementation of the provisions of the Directive. The policy is expected to be operationally effective from the date of approval. They will facilitate the desired incentives for Atmanirbhar Bharat as has been envisaged.

Meanwhile, this National Directive on Security has been described as a landmark decision by the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (TEMA) welcome the bold step hoping for healthy development in the domestic industries’ sector as well. The move has also been hailed as a forward-looking development. Articulating favourable and positive reaction to the new Directive, Chairman of the TEMA Council on digital empowerment, and former Secretary DoT, Shri Chandrashekhar IAS (Retd) assured that it was in readiness to work with the government. He also averred that the latest decision was timely and worth an appreciation. Similarly, Shri Ajai Shankar, another retired civil servant and currently Chairman TEMA Council on Industrial Policy found this as a welcome step to safeguard national security. On the whole, the new move is full of hope aimed at plugging all the loopholes in the system and providing a full proof security architecture in the sphere of telecommunications.

(Writer is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst. He is the former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius.  Views are personal.)

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer)

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