By Ram Seethepalli, CEO, Cyberior by Europ Assistance India
While India has witnessed a substantial increase in digitalisation over recent years, the current challenges due to the global pandemic have resulted in a surprising surge of digital adoption not only at the corporate and government level but also at the individual level. More and more consumers are now shopping for their essentials and other requirements online. As per an RBI report, India has shown a five times jump in daily digital transactions in 2020 as compared to 2016. However, the flip side of this situation is the marked increase in cyber-attacks across the country. A closer look at the situation reveals two key challenges to India’s digitization story. First, a perception barrier due to which people prefer to stick to traditional methods, such as the use of cash. Second, a lack of awareness and information at the individual level. While the current situation has shown us that perceptions evolve and people adapt, many are still struggling with recognising that spam, phishing email, malware, cyberfraud and other digital threats are direct risks to the individual user.
India’s growth story is unique – in an increasingly digital world, the country is one of the largest internet populations. A NITI Aayog report stated that India ranks third in terms of the highest number of internet users in the world after the US and China. India’s internet population is expected to rise to more than 900 million in 2027 from the current 670 million and an increase of over three times is anticipated in the same period for online shopping, moving from 190 million to 590 million. However, it is also likely that India will see a further rise in the incidents of cyber-attacks and cyber thefts.
The Covid-19 pandemic has augmented the cybersecurity risk landscape to a significant measure. As organisations shift to virtual ways of working, the work from home routine has compounded cyber-attack occurrences manifold.
According to a Sophos 2018–19 report, Indian organisations encountered 8 percent more cyber-attacks compared to the global average, while another study reported that in 2019, for three months on the trot, India held the top spot for the most cyber-attacked country in the world. The rapid growth in cyber-attack incidents is making individuals increasingly concerned about data privacy which can have a paralyzing effect. Questionable accumulation of personal data and information by businesses, complemented with mounting server hacks and cyber-criminal thefts have made the need for a cybersecurity solution immensely critical. While we wait for national data protection regulations, consumers’ personal and financial information and data across servers continue to be at risk.
At a macro level, governments, as well as the corporates, engage dedicated CISOs and CTOs to design their digital architecture. At a granular level, individuals need to be conscious of their digital presence, activities and behaviours. They should adopt healthy digital practices and protocols to safeguard themselves. A personalised and localised cybersecurity solution is exceedingly vital and a good investment to ensure a safe passage of data as well as secure transactions. As a result of the high usability of devices within modern families and more so with children and elderly, who are highly vulnerable to data leaks and thefts, there is a critical need for an all-inclusive cybersecurity solution.
The key imperative here is that individuals themselves are empowered to handle and manage the protection and security of their data. While one cannot ensure the protection of data on a vendor’s or a company’s server, nonetheless taking precautions on a personal level to cope with the ever-growing list of threats will go a long way to circumventing the hassles of dealing with a data leak. Experiences and incidents shape the way humans behave and react. The primary focus for individuals should be to shift the view of cybersecurity from a corporation standpoint to a more personal level to ensure no or minimal personal or financial data is leaked on the dark web. While the data protection laws and bills could be under development, data protection at a micro-level is essential to prevent losses. To mitigate the cybersecurity risks, individuals must have the readiness to respond and the know-how to ensure fewer cybersecurity hazards.
It is now time for individuals to take a holistic approach to digital and tech adoption. While Indians are aware of the growing risks of cyberattacks and its consequences, the implementation of cybersecurity at a micro level has not been sufficient. Cybersecurity is going to be a fundamental aspect of human lives going forward, as India continues to grow in the new digital world.