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Officials from the Home Ministry, CBI, RBI and Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology on Thursday faced tough questions on cyber security from a Parliamentary panel, with one member demanding the creation of an independent ministry for cyber security on the lines of the Department of Homeland Security created in the US post-9/11.
During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, headed by senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, two presentations were made by an MHA team led by Designated Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Chief Information Security Officer of India of Gulshan Rai.
The topic of discussion was demonetisation and transformation towards digital economy, with particular reference to the cyber security aspect.
Noting that the cyber security landscape was shifting from traditional models, government representatives traced the evolution of cyber fraud cases in the last two decades from being a “nuisance in 2001 to fraud” by 2007. It is now “disruptive” with sophisticated malware attacks, and by 2020 it will be “destructive” as future cyber attacks will be more sophisticated, the panel was told. The presentations showed that cyber attacks in key sectors in India grew in 2016 in comparison to the previous year.
Raising the issue of increased cyber security and the risks entailed in the government’s push for digital money following demonetisation, Trinamool Congress member Dinesh Trivedi said that the cyber security threat had become more serious than a nuclear attack and neither the Home Ministry nor the Defence Ministry was equipped to tackle it.
Citing the creation of the Department of Homeland Security after the September 11, 2001, terror attack, Trivedi referred to increasing incidents of cyber fraud in digital banking and suggested, “Is it not time that India should have an independent ministry for cyber security, given the gigantic problems that we are facing.” Lack of an umbrella law to tackle the cyber menace in India was also discussed.
TMC member Saugata Roy and others pointed out that many states have just one police station or very few personnel to look into cyber crimes. Referring to a recent RBI statement that “banks have no liability for loss of valuables in lockers”, B Mahtab of the BJD asked what the RBI would do when consumers’ money falls prey to cyber fraud.
There was a question on whether the MHA had given a report on fake currency — one of the reasons cited by the government for withdrawing Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes. Gauba was asked about the impact of demonetisation in checking black money. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh also raised the issue of legality of bitcoins. Guaba did not reply to most of the questions. He said he would reply in writing.
In a note, the MHA said cyber attacks and data leaks were the main vulnerabilities of digital transactions, apart from risks of fraud and information theft.