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CERT-In is committed to make banks and digital payments more secure

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Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) has been proactively working on promoting and pushing the cybersecurity in the financial sector

The government is working to set up a financial CERT to tackle a rise in cyber threats to India’s financial institutions, knowing the fact that the banking sector in India has rapidly adopted newer technologies and digital channels. Even the customer preferences shift towards digital platforms. There is a perception, though, that the adoption of advanced cybersecurity practices has not kept pace with the rate of evolution of core business-enabling technology. While in comparison to several other sectors, banks are definitely seen to be more proactive in investing and improving security practice, such measures may still be inadequate considering the challenges with the traditional approach to IT security.

Efforts for making financial sectors secure

CERT-In has been involved in various awareness, training efforts and is working closely with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Institute for Development & Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) to secure the financial sector from the growing menace of cyber attacks. The national agency feels with more technological advancements like robotics, Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, and chatbots are getting used to making the digital payment services faster, mobile first, affordable and secure. This sector poses to come under massive cyber attacks, believes CERT-In Director General, Sanjay Bahl.

For CERT-In, the last two years have been very rigorous. Although, the agency secures other sectors, but for the financial sector, it has been carrying out one after another security audits, drills and awareness programmes for 38 commercial banks. “It has been quite a stretch on our resources as its a massive exercise for the size of this country. Doing this for a European country and doing it for India is different. People should appreciate the scale we are trying to secure and are carrying out this exercise,” informs Bahl.

With joint efforts of CERT-In, ISPs and 38 participating banks have seen 84 percent reduction in malware attacks and 84.3 percent reduction in vulnerable services, which are opened, but not being used, which could have been exploited by the hackers. “Our services are free for any bank, we are looking for more industry collaboration in the fin-tech sector. We have also seen the reporting of breach incidents have increased among banks and financial institutions,” he says.

Digital payments: Tech vs process

Digital payment systems and financial services have grown exponentially over the last three decades. It is becoming part of the technology-based globalised economy and promoting cashless transactions and converting India into the less cashless society. Various modes of digital payments are available today. The fin-tech landscape in India is striving to make financial services more simple, available, affordable, secure mobile and fast.

Bahl also highlights, “There is a need to understand the technology and process risk together in the technology-based globalised economy. As the sophistication of threats is increasing, Ransomware and Trojans have become so common that various incidents which are occurring can be attributed to these phishing emails. There is a need to see a holistic view. With organisations undergoing a digital transformation, there is a need to automate the process and understand the digital ecosystem and its challenges first. Lack of process automation is also becoming the cause of the increase in cyber attacks.”

Fire brigade for banks

In last one year, CERT-In has published 27 advisories for end-users and organisations on how to safeguard their organisations. Today, CERT-In has 69 empaneled security auditors who are supporting the financial sector. Moreover, CERT-In is regularly conducting cyber security training for IT professionals including CISOs. In addition, it also conducts training and workshops on security audits in digital payments for banks, ISVs, and KPI, covering over 100 participants. It has trained and sensitised 38 CISOs of banks on threats, trends, and scenarios.

“We work like the fire-brigade, carrying out mock drills; it helps the organisations to assess their preparedness for cyber attacks. It helps in improving the security postures of the information infrastructure and training of manpower to handle such incidents. We also issued roles and responsibility guidelines for CISOs and there is a crisis management plan in place. We initiated the national cyber coordination centre to generate messages and situational awareness of the cyber threats and launched Botner Clinic and malware analysis centres, which are now running for one year. Over seven lakh downloads of free tools, which we are provided through Cyber Swachhta Kendras, have been provided to end users,” he continues.

For the first time, CERT-In has contributed to Drill Scenario Planning and inject development for APCERT Drill 2018. CERT-In has also served as a member of Exercise Control (EXCON) operations during the Drill for coordinating the injects. CERT-In participated in the APCERT drill 2018 for the 12th consecutive year and was able to complete each task successfully within the designated time.

Talking about the challenges before the agency, Bahl informs, “Some of the top challenges include ensuring that organisations remain resilient. We have put in place a cyber crisis management plan to solve that. There is also a challenge of continuing to build the trust of citizens in the secure usage of ICT and the internet.”

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