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2000% Increase in Cyber Security Breaches during Covid-19 Pandemic

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The global pandemic and rising digitization has led to a surge in cyber crimes in the last one year. India saw the number of breaches increased by 2000% during the pandemic, said experts at Pursuit 2021, an event on cybersecurity organized by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI).

Dr. Gulshan Rai, India’s first Cybersecurity Coordinator and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) warned that a surge in cyber crimes or ‘cyber war’ which has started impacting the industry too.

“In India, almost every sector has been breached because they all are inter-connected. During the pandemic, the number of breaches increased by 2,000% because we were using ASL or DSL from home and none is secure. Hence sensitive information flowing through them is at risk and is being used for a variety of purposes, causing financial fraud, and a threat to national security,” Rai said at the sidelines of the virtual event.

The event highlighted various aspects of cyber crimes in the financial sector and how technology can play a role in mitigating such attacks. It saw the participation of about 4,000 delegates and over 130 speakers from across the world.

Rai highlighted that although 90% of attacks are traditional in nature like phishing, malware, etc, what is however worrying is the rise in number of targeted attacks (which accounts for 9% currently). Solar winds, Wannacry, are some examples of targeted attacks which are detrimental for any organization and nation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ National Cyber crime Reporting Portal www.cybercrime.gov.in claimed to have registered over four lakh cyber threat complaints in less than a year. Around half of the cases are related to financial frauds.

“The portal (which was launched on August 30, 2019) gives us …..a perspective on what kind of complaints/ frauds are trending. What are the upcoming frauds and how we can work on policies and take up certain matters with the concerned authorities,” Ashok Kumar, Director, Ministry of Home Affairs told participants attending

The recently developed module ‘Citizen Financial Cyber Fraud Reporting and Management System’, on the portal, has helped the government save Rs 5 crore in just two to three months, he said.

Under the new module, once a complaint is filed according to set parameters with the police through helpline number 155260 and it has been input into the system, the banks are alerted on any suspicious transaction, saving the targeted amount.

In recent months, there have been several instances in which government domain email addresses were used to launch cyber attacks and the discovery of critical vulnerabilities in several government servers, which could have given attackers access deep into sensitive networks. The government is also facing increased cross-border cyber attacks and data breaches every month.

In a recent report by global VPN service provider NordVPN, India has emerged at the bottom of a global tally of countries with good online security habits and cyber hygiene, ranking 19 out of 21 countries in the National Privacy Test conducted recently.

Experts have often pointed out that the biggest challenge in India is that a majority of cyber security teams are understaffed. Indian organizations are grappling with the shortage of skilled cyber security professionals. Though there is a dearth of cyber security professionals across the globe, the shortage of skilled cyber security professionals in India is 9% higher than the global average. As per an estimate by the Data Security Council of India, the country will need about one million cyber security professionals.

Focusing on how technology can play a role in mitigating cyber attacks, Sanjay Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Kerala Police, stressed the “need to guard our houses through proper detection processes. With more robust mechanisms, better check and balances, e-KYC, artificial intelligence”.

The use of AI based cybersecurity solutions combined with skilled personnel is estimated to become the most effective way of dealing with the growing threat landscape, believe experts.

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