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India’s cybersecurity can be ensured through stronger public-private partnership

“Cybersecurity is an essential service today”- Lt. Gen Rajesh Pant, National Cybersecurity Coordinator, PMO, Government of India

As part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Microsoft organized the third edition of ExpertSpeak, a curated dialogue series with industry experts, on India’s evolving threat landscape and securing cyberspace at scale. Against this backdrop, Keshav Dhakad, General Counsel, Microsoft India, was in conversation with Lt. Gen Rajesh Pant, National Cybersecurity Coordinator, PMO, Government of India, on the evolution of the cybersecurity landscape in the country and the need for stronger collaboration between the public and private sectors to secure India at scale.

Gen Pant called for greater sharing of threat intelligence between enterprises and the government, stating that cybersecurity is an essential service today with India being one of the most cyber attacked nations in the world. Responding to Gen Pant, Keshav Dhakad emphasized the need to fight cybercrime with an ecosystem approach, “The fact that cyber criminals are becoming more organized and well-resourced, makes it necessary to have global harmonization. It is a global issue and no one entity government, law enforcement or any kind of organization can fight cybercrime alone. If you don’t have access to threat intelligence, you are not able to develop a defense or offense mechanism to disrupt cybercrime and that is where we believe we need to have more collaboration to coordinate, share intelligence, and execute programs. Security is not just limited to a certain section of experts-we all have responsibilities. “

“What we require now is a National Cybersecurity Strategy, which we have been working on over the last two years and is in the cabinet for the final stamp. Then the first thing is that we need a governance structure, because there is no central apex organization which is responsible for cybersecurity of the nation,” added Gen Pant.

Cybersecurity today has become critical for individuals, businesses and governments as cyberattacks increase in size, scale, and sophistication. Gen Pant mentioned that there are about 4 million malware that are detected every day and India is one of the most cyber attacked nations in the world.  He attributed this primarily to the fact that we have a large attack surface with 1.15 billion phones and more than 700 million internet users.

During the pandemic, Gen Pant mentioned that the National Security Agency saw a 500% increase in cyberattacks, citing that the telecom, financial, transportation and energy sectors were the most targeted. He said the government managed to avert any major cyber-attacks or threats, resulting in India’s jump from the 47th to 10th spot in the new rankings of the Global Cybersecurity Index.

Keshav emphasized that cyber skilling is of paramount importance. Reports estimate that there will be about 1.5 million job vacancies in cybersecurity by 2025 in India. There’s a strong industry need to build programs that bridge this skills gap in cybersecurity. Closing the gender gap in cybersecurity and enabling more diversity in the field is another critical priority. Microsoft, a critical enabler of digital skills in India, has invested in the CyberShikshaa program along with the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), to create a pool of skilled women security professionals in the country. Microsoft is also partnering closely with MeitY to skill security leaders in government entities across the nation in cybersecurity.

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