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India is positioned to become a global leader in terms of data, technology, digitization and inclusion. The government has been at the forefront of driving technology-led initiatives through flagship programmes like Startup India, Digital India etc. to foster a favourable business environment for existing and new businesses to become global unicorns.

India has significant potential for growth in the coming years. And as the digital economy grows, it becomes more prone to  cyber threats and vulnerabilities. For instance, there is a growing risk of cyberattacks on key infrastructure as well as financial institutions.

Impactful Digitization Can Only be Achieved Through Robust Cybersecurity 

An increase in cloud-based attacks has been one of the most prevalent cyber threats to the banking industry. Large corporations and IT firms have recently experienced severe data breaches. To combat this, the government is actively working on improving cybersecurity. For example, Card-on-File Tokenization is one of the most recent technologies rolled out by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to create a robust and safer digital payment infrastructure for consumers and increase business confidence in accepting digital payments. 

The industry’s enthusiastic endorsement of this directive and implementation of tokens at a scale unseen across the world shows how cybersecurity has become a core issue for government and industry alike.

Factoring in Cyber Risks

The financial sector in India needs to safekeep information to maintain credibility and loyalty among the masses. From ATM systems being hacked to account-centric frauds, cybersecurity breaches have occurred in various geographies and sectors. Data breaches can make it difficult to trust financial institutions and hence financial and fintech organizations should prioritize security as they handle a lot of personal and financial data and transactions on a daily basis. 

As per a Gartner report, 45% of organizations worldwide will have experienced attacks by 2025 on their software supply chains, a three-fold increase from 2021. 

Additionally, the nature and modus operandi of cyber threats has changed significantly in the last couple of years. The attacks are now more targeted, swift, and concentrated in terms of their geographical locations. 

Public Private Partnership to Combat Cyber Threats

Cyberattacks and breaches have become a preferred mode of aggression by state and non-state actors in conflict situations lately. In the ongoing conflicts between countries, tactical teams trained in cyber warfare have been deployed to attack critical infrastructure with a view to compromise integral defence systems and infrastructure. 

These attacks are not only limited to interstate conflicts as a growing number of miscreants are holding large companies ransom through systemic attacks and ransomware. Recently, in India, a large power company’s operations were compromised due to a ransomware attack.

While the government has set up a Cyber Security Division under MeitY which is constantly evaluating the threats and corresponding regulatory framework to mitigate cybersecurity risks, it is a responsibility that has to be shared by the private sector. Companies like Mastercard which have decades of global expertise in managing such risks and creating architecture that mitigate them can help build and strengthen cybersecurity systems. Governments, both at the state and central level as well as industry will need to play an active role in spreading awareness and training individuals. A large part of India’s population is digitally literate but unaware about basic security measures. As India embarks on its Techade of growth and global leadership, the trifecta of policy, infrastructure and awareness will be imperative to ensure that digital growth does not come at the cost of compromised cybersecurity.

Solutions and Initiatives to safeguard India’s Cybersecurity journey

To tackle cyber threats on an urgent basis, the government and industry players have built capabilities that are being driven by advanced AI and ML solutions. 

Typically, these tools rely on large volumes of digital transaction data to detect and prevent fraudulent transactions to prevent hacks. Algorithms are used to track and analyze large transactions, detect suspicious activity in user accounts, and send alerts. 

Behavioural analytics and passive biometrics are key to identifying good users versus bad actors, for example, the way the user is holding the phone, typing speed, device attributes etc. AI/ ML help in analysing data from millions of cyber incidents and using it to identify potential threats or a new variant of malware.

Today, there are risk mitigation tools designed for small businesses with self-scan capability. They enable businesses to scan their websites for potential cyber vulnerabilities by simply running them from a portal, much like how one uses an antivirus for devices. 

Such tools leverage open-source intelligence by employing passive, non-invasive techniques to discover the organization’s public systems and to analyse the cybersecurity risk posture of those systems. This increases the frequency of scans without any disruption to business and these capabilities help organizations recognize any gaps before the criminals and address risks.

As cybersecurity will continue to remain a potent factor in India’s digital ecosystem, all stakeholders must focus on a collaborative approach to develop formidable solutions that can create safer digital spaces. The role of policymakers will be equally crucial as they can help the industry in catalysing innovation and bringing new solutions to the market at a faster pace and with enhanced agility. 

Disclaimer: This article is a paid publication and does not have journalistic/editorial involvement of Hindustan Times. Hindustan Times does not endorse/subscribe to the content(s) of the article/advertisement and/or view(s) expressed herein. Hindustan Times shall not in any manner, be responsible and/or liable in any manner whatsoever for all that is stated in the article and/or also with regard to the view(s), opinion(s), announcement(s), declaration(s), affirmation(s) etc., stated/featured in the same.

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