A handful of personal and institutional Twitter handles and emails were hacked over the past week in what seems to be India’s first big brush with cyber security. Incidents like this have happened across the world, hackers have been brought to book, hackers have got away. When the hackers seems to slip into the role of activists, then there is a message in the way they have chosen targets and exposed data. Nothing, however, gives it legitimacy.
While India is still not asking the questions we should about these hacks and how we are reacting to them as a society, there is a bigger question lurking in the background. Coming at a time when our Prime Minister has set in motion the biggest push towards digital transactions and as a result digitisation and internet adoption, it is scary that we as a society are happy to live with a constant threat to our digital security.
While most of us choose to look at these as mere Twitter hacks, an intrusion in our virtual social existence limited in its scope by 140 characters, the fact that there are email accounts and a lot of personal data at stake, takes it to a whole new level. Any email account these days is a window into the person who owns it, their identity, personality, private life and, more dangerously, financial profile.
Most Indians don’t even realise that our digital identities are now so inextricably linked to our actual personas. Just a simple SMS from a bank stating your bank balance could end up being a key to exploit you, email access is like opening the entire door. We still have a nonchalant attitude towards cyber security, looking at it as someone else’s problem, until, of course, it hits us where it hurts.
Now that millions of Indians have entered the mobile banking and digital payments ecosystem, often not understanding what it actually means, the government should have a strict policy in place when it comes to cyber crime in all its forms. Even misuse of a digital wallet should be dealt with in the toughest way to send a message that cyber security is not something that can be messed with. Given that our digital payment platforms are also lined to the Aadhaar platform, there is a clear cut case for the government to keep a hawkeye on how this segment evolves.