Cyber insecure

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India takes pride in software skills and plans to go rapidly online, but urgently needs to put up strong defences to be cyber secure. Over one-fifth of mobile phones and desktop computers in the country are infected with malware — mischievous software which can gain unauthorised access to a device and damage or destroy its system. The warning has been sounded in a recent study by Comparitech, a consumer tech review company.

Ranked among the worst performers (with China positioned even lower), India’s problems could stem from the proliferation of cheap smartphones in the market with users having little awareness about proper usage. While the government has been taking steps, like launching free anti-malware tools in February 2017, there is still much to do.

Several cyber crimes last year clearly show a rising threat to the country’s IT network and huge databases, like an ATM scam in Kolkata that cleaned up Rs 20 lakh, hackers stealing SIM card information to break into bank accounts of customers of a Pune-based bank and transferring money offshore, and even a series of breaches in the Aadhaar database that stores biometric ID details of the country’s population.

Things are likely to get worse with the study detecting a considerable proportion of Telnet attacks against IoT (Internet of Things) devices emerging from the Indian subcontinent. Clearly, the country needs an army of cyber security warriors, who can be groomed from school stage onwards with effective course content. The government can’t do this alone — private players need to pitch in with all their expertise.