Monday, May 26, 2014

Union Home Ministry Officials Dropped NCTC From Project List Due To Fear Of Modi

Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi has asked bureaucrats in various government departments to apprise him of the status of various pending projects, their progress and problems and what projects are required to be taken forward for implementation. All bureaucrats are busy in making presentations to be made to Modi.

However, what is the use of such reporting if it is not based upon fair, fearless and honest grounds. For instance, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has listed the projects that were blatantly ignored by it in the past. Now home ministry officials have released a list of areas and projects that must be carried forward by the home ministry.

Surprisingly, the home ministry officials have dropped the reference of National Counter Terrorism Centre of India (NCTC) at all. It is learnt that they have done this because Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi had been at loggerheads with the UPA government when he was Gujarat chief minister. Is this a valid reason to drop a project in a democratic country like India?

According to Praveen Dalal, managing partner of New Delhi based ICT law firm Perry4Law “This is a highly unfortunate situation. No project should be dropped simply because Mr. Narendra Modi has disliked the same in the past. It is the constitutional duty of bureaucrats to suggest inclusion of projects of National Importance keeping aside their own biases, prejudices or fears. If they simply drop a worth project like NCTC on the basis that Mr. Modi disliked it in the past nothing is more embarrassing and unfortunate than such an approach”.

“Even if Mr. Modi is averse to NCTC as on date, the bureaucrats must suggest the same. Of course, if there are some other issues, besides personal preferences or dislikes of Mr. Modi, they must be openly and frankly communicated to Mr. Modi and let him decide ultimately”. The NCTC of India must be constituted on a priority basis as it is need of the hour, opines Dalal.

Fortunately, the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) has found a mention in the proposed list. However, Natgrid is also facing many problems and this has made it non operational. The fact is that intelligence infrastructure has been plagued by administrative lapses and legal irregularities. Modernisation of law enforcement and intelligence agencies is need of the hour.

The chief opposition of Modi against NCTC was that he considered it to be a poorly conceived idea that tinkers with age-old existing systems. He believed that rather than strengthening our anti terrorism fight it will do irreparable loss to our internal security apparatus. Although time has drastically changed since then but our bureaucrats have given preference to their Modi’s fear over national interest and anti terrorism fight.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Indian Department Of Telecom (DoT) Projects The Ignored Areas As Priorities Now

Facing tremendous pressure from the future Prime Minister of India, the Department of Telecom (DoT) of India has marked the priority areas. Surprisingly, these areas are the same that have been deliberately avoided and ignored by DoT for so many years.  Is this adoption of double standards on the part of DoT or a sincere effort to remove the inadequacies of Indian telecom sector is still to be seen.

The present working and policy decisions of the DoT have put the cyber security of India in a precarious situation. There are many cyber security challenges that the Narendra Modi government would be required to deal with simply because DoT and previous government failed to take effective steps in this direction.

According to Praveen Dalal, managing partner of New Delhi based ICT law firm Perry4Law and leading techno legal expert of Asia, “Cyber Security of India needs a “Ground Level Overhaul” as it has been ignored in India for decades. Even on the legislation front, India has failed to do the needful. For instance, we need to repeal the laws like Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000), Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, etc but for some strange reasons our bureaucrats and Indian government kept them intact”.

“I have been suggesting these recourses for the past five years but till now nothing concrete has happened in this regard. Similarly, crucial laws are absent from Indian statute books. These include law regarding privacy, data protection (PDF), telecom security, encryption, cloud computing, etc, informs Dalal”.

Surprisingly, now DoT believes that introduction of new laws and norms, including the communication bill to replace century-old Indian Telegraph Act, security of networks, and infrastructure must be the priority areas for the new government. DoT has even listed top 10 priority areas for the sector with the Cabinet Secretary. The Cabinet Secretary has asked all the departments to keep a presentation ready for appraising the new Prime Minister of achievements as well as failures of the outgoing government and steps the departments would like to take in order to boost the growth.

The DoT’s list include introduction of Communication Bill that will replace over century old Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, as well as Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933, TRAI Act 1997, Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act 1995, IT Act 2000, official sources said. An internal committee of DoT has already recommended providing telecom, cable and broadcasting services by a single company and paying for the services though a common bill.

Apart from this, DoT has listed six major incomplete projects, including Rs 20,000-crore National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project aimed to provide high speed broadband services across all 2.5 lakh panchayats in the country along with Wi-Fi services that were started by the outgoing UPA government.

DoT has said that there is a need to further amend telecom licences for facilitating growth”. There is a need to separate network licensing from services licensing and ease barriers to entry and exit for telecom players. The new government should work on implementation of full Unified Licensing Regime”, an official source said.

Amid growing cyber espionage threat, DoT has listed security of communication network in the agenda. The department said there is a need for “comprehensive plan for telecom security, including creation of testing facilities for integrity of communications network”. At present, India does not have any security testing facility for telecom equipment to detect complex malware. DoT has also listed need to strengthen mobile services in border area, dedicated communication network for defence forces as part of communication security.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ebay Plans To Boost Its Cyber Security Amid Threats Of Global Legal Actions

The computer systems of eBay were recently attacked and compromised by unknown hackers. Ebay initially downsized the incidence and its impact by stressing upon mere password change. However, things are not as casual and easy as Ebay has considered. Three U.S. States are investigating whether Ebay’s has committed any wrong by not reporting the matter in a timely manner.

In short, Ebay is under investigation to ascertain the effectiveness of its cyber security practices. This is not the first case of this type and this certainly would not be the last of its kind as well. For instance, Target Corporation was also cyber attacked in the past and as a result of that Target Corporation faced litigation threats around the world. Now EBay is also facing similar litigation threats.

There seems to some very serious policy level lapses in U.S. that is allowing the companies to go away with legal consequences. However, this would not help these U.S. companies in other jurisdictions and they are vulnerable to diverse forms of legal actions there.

According to New Delhi based ICT law firm Perry4Law, “U.S. companies cannot hide behind the veil of conflict of laws in cyberspace anymore. No company can know this much better than Google who is facing online defamation case in India and has to comply with the right to be forgotten in Europe. Now the Luxembourg and U.K. data-protection authorities may probe EBay regarding the cyber-attack that exposed passwords and personal information of consumers around the world, including India. Even Indian regulatory authorities may initiative an investigation against EBay to ensure that privacy rights and data of Indian citizens may not have been violated during the cyber breach”.

Now Ebay has decided to streamline its cyber security. However, this would not be enough as the damage has already been done. U.S. needs to set an example by investigating and challenging the cyber security practices of U.S. companies. Till big corporations are forced to follow the norms there would not be any change.

Indian government must also introduce cyber security disclosure norms as soon as possible as Indian cyber security is in a bad shape. As the cyber security breaches are increasing world over, India cannot afford to keep its cyber security lax.