Sunday, September 28, 2014

1.2 billion Indians need cybersecurity education in the next five years

Mid 2013, the Indian government in its Nation Cyber Security Policy outlined the need for India to create half a million security professionals to protect and assure its digital assets.  A policy focus of this magnitude necessitates the introduction of cybersecurity postgraduate programs in India’s higher education system and a larger fund outlay to promote academic research in security.  On the cards are venture funds to aid entrepreneurs invest in the local manufacture of indigenous telecom and security products, in an attempt to try and tap Indian IT talent to create a new industry sector.
While the economic need for security professionals to protect a strong and vibrant economy is a reality, with 1.2 billion Indian’s online we face a much larger social challenge to minimize security risk and instill ethical use. Citizens will engage in online social activities like games and social media, e-governance, personal communication, ecommerce and much more.  A digital India will comprise at least 5 billion individual owned digital assets online – now called the Internet of Everything – these include Internet connected refrigerators, microwaves, thermostats, net nannies, cars, wearables, health device and so on. All which are to be secured by each cybercitizen on their own.

State intervention in personal online security will be a daunting task. Today we face challenges in drafting legislation and in gearing up the law enforcement and judicial system to deal with infringements. Training of the Indian judiciary and law enforcement is itself a huge challenge. The numbers are at the minimum a 1,00,000 policemen and judges to provide the very basic investigation and forensic assistance at every police station and court house.
The greatest risk to a large citizen owned digital asset base is twofold. The first is the exploitation of unprotected or inadequately protected assets by cyber criminals. Compromised assets are used to steal money from cybercitizens themselves as well as a staging point to launch attacks on others.  The second and more importantly are the security issues introduced by the non-ethical and unsafe use of social media and technology by young Indians.

There is no doubt, a young India will immensely benefit from the opportunities that cyberspace brings and that we should gear up to openly embrace its spread and use. But, at the same time we need to instill in every Indian a culture of cyber ethics using traditional Indian values and the ability to protect themselves online. Online, as there is no attribution, no valid authenticity to digital content and crime being global, the opportunity for manipulation by exposure to content such as pornography, radical ideologies, divisive political elements and advertisement is immense.
Cybercitizens themselves, and not politicians will have to shape the future of this new world. A world which at minimum requires every school to have cyber-safety and ethics courses as part of their curriculum. A few awareness lectures will not suffice. We need to instill deep values in our children. More importantly given the divide between parents who grapple to use the Internet and their children who are digital adepts, attention has to be paid to the cyber safety education that parents receive to help them guide and be good role models to their children. Unfortunately there have been many cases where adults set a bad example themselves through their online comments and actions. For parents wanting to understand the basic of cyber risks  and their prevention faced by children, please read my short awareness course titled "Keeping your child safe online".

The Internet of the future will be all pervasive and bring in opportunities for children of all ages. Let us not fritter it away by not preparing our children to use it safely, securely and without fear.

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