Volume 1, Issue 11

Volume 1, Issue 11

Date: January 06, 2021

2020 has been a year of disruptions, marked by a devastating pandemic and geopolitical rivalries over trade and technology. The advent of the coronavirus pandemic was historic, shifting human activity into the digital space but also creating massive security concerns for the global banking and financial sector, health care sector and research institutions. The data generated by the massive surge in digitisation, while promoting the growth of Artificial Intelligence and futuristic 5G communications, also became a target for manipulation, affecting national security and economy. Several nation states were reportedly involved in shaping online narratives, some to disinform, misinform and build new technological systems of social control.

Indian cyber space had seen a massive surge in cyberattacks across all sectors, not only due to the pandemic but also because of a collusive campaign of our adversaries in China and Pakistan. Numerous hospitals, Covid-19 research firms and pharma companies, including Dr. Reddy’s Labs and Lupin, have fallen victim to ransomware in the last quarter of 2020. These targeted attacks and disinformation campaigns will surge in 2021, affecting industry, critical infrastructure and government machinery.

Timely policy interventions to protect data and national networks by banning of Chinese apps and scrutiny of supply chains of hardware/software deployed on critical infrastructures have helped to mitigate vulnerabilities. India is working on scaling up secured communication networks and boosting manufacturing capabilities by developing indigenous technologies. The auction of 4G spectrum is planned in early 2021. The roll-out of futuristic 5G networks, dependent on the readiness of the Indian eco system, needs to be fast tracked.

Internationally, the year 2020 witnessed ransomware attacks, data breaches, disinformation campaigns and even sophisticated nation-state sponsored attacks. Covid-19 vaccine research and distribution systems were among the targets of these attacks. The year ended with revelations of a massive supply chain linked cyber espionage attack across US government agencies and industry. This attack brought into stark focus the fallibility of even the most developed countries in cyber space, in spite of having well laid out strategies and spending billions of dollars on security organisations and counter measures.  These attacks, by proxies or by nation states, pose grave risks to national security and should be deterred by collective punitive actions by likeminded countries, aided by their technology industries.