Government data shows that cyber security incidents almost doubled between January and August this year. The information, which hs been tracked by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), showed that in 2019, 3.9 lakh cyber security incidents were reported.
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Sanjay Dhotre informed the Lok Sabha that this increased to nearly 7 lakh in August 2020. The CERT-In data shows that for 2020, the number of attacks from January to March was 113,334; April to June was 230,223; and July to August was 353,381. Siddharth Vishwanath, Partner Cyber Advisory Leader PwC, said there are multiple factors driving this increase in cyber security incidents. He observed that during the pandemic, organizations were fighting out on how to continue doing business and people were connecting through remote locations, sometimes using their own devices, that gave hackers great opportunities to become more active. “In a scenario where people are in a state of chaos, there were a lot of COVID themed attacks to try and fish for their data. This has impacted employment in some ways across the world, in terms of increased hacking activity which is not so much of a short-term, but more of a medium to a long-term thing,” Vishwanath said.
Last week, the National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval said the government is working hard to protect the country’s cyberspace. Highlighting the National Cyber-Security Strategy 2020, Doval said it focuses on all areas of cyber security for a safe, secure, trusted, resilient and vibrant cyberspace for India’s prosperity. He pointed out that there was a 500 per cent increase in cyber crimes during COVID-19 due to limited awareness and poor cyber hygiene among people. “Financial frauds have seen an exponential increase due to greater dependence on digital platforms. Phishing campaigns through COVID-19 related themes targeting government, defence and critical infrastructure surged during this period. Malicious domains and websites to the tune of 5,000 were registered in a short span of time,” Doval said. “We witnessed attacks on the account of Indian government officials and websites using spear-phishing as a vector and COVID-19 themes.”
The NSA highlighted that India has made progress through digital and e-governance has helped to ensure that we would carry out the business of the government, economic activity and social interactions. “We all have to brace ourselves to cope with emerging realities. Change in a work environment that has been brought about by the pandemic has made work from home the new normal,” Doval said. “With dependence on trade through virtual means, there is a greater dependence on digital payment platforms to reduce cash handling and greater data sharing is happening online and presence in social media has also increased.”