Union Budget 2018: Impressive IT investments, but no cybersecurity measures

FM Arun Jaitley may have announced substantial allocations to new technologies but without a proper cybersecurity framework, IT leaders wonder where it will lead.

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A week ago, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley laid down the last full-fledged budget of this term. Though it was mostly a common-man oriented budget, it had quite a few allocations for technology as well.

A massive allocation of Rs 3,073 crore to R&D of new technologies like machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) for the department of science and technology (DST) said it all.

“To invest in research training, and skilling in robotics, AI, digital manufacturing, big data intelligence, quantum communications and art of the things, the DST will launch a mission on cyberspace in support of the establishment of a center of excellence. I have doubled their allocation on the Digital India program to Rs 3,073 crore in 2018-19,” Jaitley announced. Additionally, Niti Aayog will be setting up a national program for AI. Jaitley also announced the government’s intent to explore blockchain in digital payments, while declaring cryptocurrency as not a legal tender.

The government’s focus on digitization shows that they are on the right path as Indian IT has always been playing catch up to other countries, especially because our IT has always been limited to metro cities.

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      Avinash Velhal, Group CIO - Middle East and APAC, Atos International.

 

 

 

 

 

Avinash Velhal, group CIO–Middle East and APAC at Atos International welcomed these allocations. “Their eagerness in exploring blockchain for digital payments and e-governance is ideal at our current level, and not making cryptocurrency a legal tender right now is the correct step especially because we’re all aware of the havoc any unregulated currency can cause,” he said.

The Smart Cities mission also got a huge allocation of over Rs 2.04 lakh crore to be spread across 99 cities with projects like solar rooftops, intelligent transport systems, smart roads and smart control and command centers. Ekhlaque Bari, executive VP–IT at Max Life Insurance, applauded this initiative's allocation and adds that the proper digital infrastructure to sustain this mission will only follow when the projects are beginning to be implemented.

However, the one thing missing in the budget was the expected allocation for cybersecurity, seeing the number of cyberattacks and ransomware we had to deal with in 2017. Business Standard’s pre-budget expectations of the government allocating close to Rs 20,000 crore to cybersecurity clearly fell apart. Only Rs 110 crore has been allocated for cybersecurity projects including the implementation of the second phase of National Cyber Security Coordination Centre.

Because of rapid digitization of the globe, technology is the next warfare tool and not taking adequate care of cybersecurity exposes risks to our own sovereignty.

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                       Ekhlaque Bari, Executive VP – IT, Max Life Insurance

 

 

 

 

 

According to Velhal, it is not the government’s sole prerogative to ensure security and no agency, government or private can really ensure better security by pushing more funds into it. “Cybersecurity is the ownership of the entire ecosystem and allocating more budget doesn’t ensure better security. When we can build the right ecosystem, the security will be inbuilt and ready in place,” he added.

However, he said that in light of recent breaches in the Aadhaar system, one cannot ignore security. With the government pushing for a digital economy, cybersecurity becomes even more paramount as the system has to deal with the rural economy as well. “We need simple but very effective systems in place,” added Velhal.

Bari disagreed. “With the government’s intent to invest more in newer technologies, a lacking cybersecurity budget is even more glaring,” he said.

With rapid digitization and with every step taken forward in digital, security risks keep on mounting high. Bari stressed upon how the investment in AI, blockchain and IoT emphasizes that India is taking further steps to becoming a digital economy and are opening up newer security vulnerabilities. “Now that we’ve UIDAI and Aadhaar taking center stage, the way to address security and privacy is opening up bit by bit, and there is a huge gap in the architectural approach to it,” he added.

“The government’s focus on digitization shows that they are on the right path as Indian IT has always been playing catch up to other countries, especially because our IT has always been limited to metro cities,” he said, “and if we’re looking at a big digital revolution, it will take time.”

According to Bari, because of rapid digitization of the globe, technology is the next warfare tool. “Not taking adequate care of cybersecurity exposes risks to our own sovereignty,” he said.

With a hacker war already going on between India and Pakistan, maybe the next warfare is already here.