IB to Create Cybersecurity ArchitectureExperts Say IB Should Handle This on a War Footing
To augment India's cybersecurity infrastructure, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has instructed the Intelligence Bureau to create a cybersecurity architecture that will be independent of the National Technical Research Organization, an agency of the National Security Adviser, working under the Prime Minister's Office.
See Also: The Global State of Online Digital Trust
The minister has also given the go-ahead to create a specialized wing and an additional 500 new posts in the intelligence wing, headed by an officer of joint director rank.
Cybersecurity and law enforcement experts welcome the move, saying this was long pending and must be taken up on a war footing. Besides, the architecture must be pragmatic, operational and functional, helping bridge security loopholes.
Speaking to the Indian Express recently, a senior government official from the ministry, requesting anonymity, said, "IB has a separate wing for cybersecurity, but the creation of a full-fledged wing is required to tackle loopholes. In the past, cyberspace was used to recruit young people to join terrorist outfits like IS. The threat from this medium is imminent; we require a dedicated team to crackdown on it."
While details haven't been disclosed, sources say there will be a specialized wing at the top to handle cybercrime. The team will work under the cabinet secretariat.
Security leaders commend the move, but are skeptical about the department's action in speeding up the process and its implementation strategy. They say a similar move, for cybersecurity architecture among other cyber safeguards, was proposed by the ministry and the Cabinet Committee during early 2013. It was a multi-pronged effort to prevent sabotage and espionage, as well as attacks, damage and leaks that cyber terrorists could cause to India's vital information system.
Some experts recall the government forming a consortium to step up cybersecurity and also recruiting a workforce to be deployed across its six organizations to handle India's cybersecurity architecture in that year: DeitY, CERT-IN, NIC, DoT, NTRO, the ministry of defence and the Intelligence Bureau and the Defence Research and Development Organization. There has not been any further development on this front.
The ministry's new announcement has indeed surprised cyber leaders.Coimbatore-based S N Ravichandran, cyber investigator and member of the National Cyber Association of India says, "If the home minister has solicited new cyber architecture, I presume it's directed towards handling inward threats; the framework would help gather intelligence on cyber espionage."
Experts argue that the current cybersecurity architecture used by the IB is more incident-driven with random untested tools and no thought given to data analysis or information flow during intelligence gathering.
Agra-based Rakshit Tandon, director-A & R Info Security Solutions Pvt Ltd and advisor of the Cyber Crime Unit, UP Police, is concerned about the mushrooming of many organizations in the government, including NCCC, NTRO, CERT-In, which are coming up with their own architectures, and how these will work with law enforcement groups in dealing with cybercrime.
However, Tandon says, IB's key focus should be on developing a framework to protect critical information and infrastructure, building frameworks to gather intelligence from internet and mobile service providers and empowering people to take corrective action while soliciting information and doing analysis.
Ravichandran says the new architecture should be built around:
- An intelligent, implementable, comprehensive, coordinated and managed system working inside the law that is monitored by the National Human Rights Commission.
- Forming a single nodal agency with a well-developed chain of accountability to identify, authenticate, and authorize acquisition of data, then share it with the various agencies tasked to protecting the integrity of the country in real time.
Lucknow-based Dr. Triveni Singh, additional superintendent of Police, Special Task Force, recommends that the IB set up cyber intelligence cells across states as part of the cybersecurity framework.
"The framework should incorporate the setting up of a single national body to monitor branches in various states and work on a recruitment framework to prescribe technical capabilities of the teams," says Singh.
Building CyberSec Skills
Sources at the home ministry say the government has initiated a plan to gradually increase India's cybersecurity workforce, and strengthening the IB's cybersecurity infrastructure is part of that plan.
Leaders agree that the country's cybersecurity infrastructure has been facing acute manpower shortage. In comparison, the US and China have set up separate cybersecurity commands with a workforce of around a lakh.
Singh says that, most often, the state law enforcement departments receive intelligence from the IB on terrorist- and fake currency-related information. "However, there is no skilled workforce available at both the departments to handle cyber threats," he says.
According to sources in the government, IB plans to recruit young talent with MBAs, advocates, IT specialists having qualifications like BE, BTech and MTech, accountants, science graduates and PGs, doctors and even pharma engineers, and train them in cybersecurity skills.
In the recent past, the home minister had initiated the formation of a five-member cyber crime panel to tackle cybercrime challenges. Represented by the academia and government, it was supposed to submit its report on the proposed architecture and cybercrime and skill development programs by May this year, but has sought an extension.
Ravichandran says, "The IB should be focus on building analytical skills among the teams and look for those who are expert in infrastructure management."