Wion Edit: Cybersecurity - are governments around the world safe?

Delhi Jan 22, 2020, 08.37 PM(IST) Written By: WION

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and Saudi’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Photograph:( WION )

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Cyberattack is now a legitimate weapon to target government institutions.

one of the most powerful leaders in the world today.

The Amazon CEO had hired private investigators to probe the phone hack. So if Jeff Bezos has evidence to prove is the shocking claim, he must put it out.

And this brings us to the question of security, we live in the digital age and government services are moving online. People in Estonia can vote and register companies online. Brazilians can file their taxes online, citizens of Buenos Aires interact with city administrators through Mobile Apps. In India, more than 140 government services are online and it won't be long when every interaction we have with our governments will be through the internet as it saves time and it is cost-effective. 

The government will move online too. There is merit to the argument that the day-to-day business of a government can be done online, but the question here is - is it safe? Even major technology companies would hesitate a little before they reply with a yes because technology is not fool-proof. 

In the last 10 years, we have witnessed the many ways by which technology can disrupt lives - disinformation campaigns, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and several data breaches.

Cyberattack is now a legitimate weapon to target government institutions. Last year, different local governments in America were attacked by ransomware. Ransomware is malicious software that locks an entire computer and then the attacker demands a ransom from the victim to restore access.

In 2019, government officials in the city of Baltimore, a group of cities in Florida, and several local agencies in Texas found themselves locked out of their computers. Officials in Florida paid more than one million dollars in ransom. Others had to shell out much more to rebuild their infrastructure.

India is not immune to cyberattacks, between January and October last year, 48 government websites were hacked. The most alarming attack was on the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

The time has come to take cybersecurity seriously, indigenous solutions are the need of the hour. For instance, the Israeli defence forces have built their own smartphone to securely communicate on the battleground. 

WATCH: India Needs Indigenous Tools for Cybersecurity

 

The internet is here to stay, but the growing breaches show that the silicon valley alone cannot be trusted to secure data. As a growing tech power -  India must promote indigenous expertise in cybersecurity.

And leaders with access to sensitive information will need safeguards. Former US President Barack Obama was perhaps one of the most tech-savvy American Presidents. For the longest time, he was allowed to only carry a Blackberry which was developed by the American national security agency.

They stripped the phone of practically every built-in feature. It had no games, no selfie camera, texting was not allowed.
The phone could only call 10 phone numbers - the calls were routed through a special network.

Most world leaders have similar arrangements - a stripped-down, but a secure smartphone with a secure line. 

India lacks a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, but plans are in place to fill the gaps. According to a report, India is planning an umbrella body - a unified command that will advice and support public and private sectors against cyber threats.

(Disclaimer: WION Edit is the channel's take on the big events of the world)