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View from India: Hague Centre’s cyber-security summer school, protecting the future

Given the pace of digital growth, it’s understandable that we need cyber-security professionals to protect our data.

Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric programme and a national identity system in India, has gained over one billion users. As many as 50 billion devices, ranging from smartphones and TVs to watches and trucks, will be connected by 2020. Given the pace of digital growth, it’s understandable that we need cyber-security professionals to protect our data and a trained workforce is essential.

No surprise, then, that the International Institute of Information Technology-Hyderabad (IIIT-H) is one of the organisations that has initiated the inaugural Hague India Cyber Security Summer School, which concluded last week.

As well as the IIIT-H, the Hague India Cyber Security Summer School is also supported by the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, E2Labs, the Nalsar University of Law, SkillCube, KrypC, the Hague University of Applied Sciences and the Municipality of The Hague (Den Haag, in the Netherlands). The theme for the 2018 summer school revolved round data-breach investigation, hacktivism, hardware cyber security, cyber forensics, cyber and ethics, mobility and the role of blockchain in cyber security.

The Summer School is the first initiative of the Hyderabad Security Cluster (HSC), India’s first security cluster. Earlier this year, HSC entered into a partnership with the Dutch Security Cluster known as Hague Security Delta (HSD) to tighten cyber security. HSD, the largest security cluster in Europe, has for the first time collaborated with an Indian entity. A beginning has been made at the Summer School, which saw the representation of a few Indian students from leading institutions from Hyderabad.

“Getting inputs from interdisciplinary researchers and faculty for our students will be very helpful and working with the faculty will give our students the right exposure. We are looking at opportunities for faculty from TUDelft to teach a course and conduct research in Hyderabad,” said Prof Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, visiting associate professor at IIIT-Hyderabad. Such opportunities will be kept open for professionals as well.

IIIT-H, along with other institutions and tech companies such as Cyient, Verizon and Oracle, has commonly expressed their concern for digitally secure alternatives. The thought evolved and they signed a cyber-security support agreement with the Hague Security Delta (HSD). HSC then came into existence.

For its part, the Nalsar University of Law plans to formulate a legal framework to deal with cyber crime, for which HSD will provide the necessary guidance. Besides that, HSD will assist HSC with the product development required to handle cyber security. Overall, HSD will offer technical assistance for HSC to address the increasing threats of cyber attacks. Cyber security cannot be seen in isolation: it should extend to citizen involvement. It is planned to create awareness campaigns for citizens to make a bid towards cyber safety.

While it may be too early to tell, it is expected that HSC could be led by a governance board and technical advisory committee. When we look at the ecosystem required to support cyber security, it would be nice if cyber-security startups and research were encouraged through the HSC-HSD partnership.

Meanwhile, the Summer School is expected to open out vistas by creating opportunities in cyber-security management. “We are already in talks for co-advising students and facilitating student exchange initiatives for students from Hyderabad pursuing internship programmes in the Netherlands and potentially faculty from TUDelft visiting Hyderabad and offering short-term lectures or courses,” added Professor Kumaraguru.

The fact that Hyderabad has become the venue for a security cluster of this magnitude is not difficult to comprehend. Though Bangalore is described as India’s Silicon Valley as well as startup capital, Hyderabad has been gaining ground. The place has a sound infrastructure thanks to the presence of several IT giants, notably Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, Infosys, Microsoft, Tech Mahindra, IBM and Google, among others.  

According to a July 2018 IBM study, titled ‘Hidden Costs of Data Breaches Increase Expenses for Businesses’, the average cost of a data breach in India is estimated at Rs 119 million - a 7.9 per cent increase from the 2017 report. The study is sponsored by IBM Security and conducted by Ponemon Institute.

“The threat scenario shows a significant rise in both number and sophistication of breaches in this year’s report, which is alarming as it continues to rise in India” said Vikas Arora, chief transformation officer, IBM India/South Asia.

He added: “Companies in India need to fortify their security strategy to leverage a secure cloud environment and build a strong AI strategy. They need to identify the many hidden expenses which must be considered, such as reputational damage, customer turnover and operational costs. Knowing where the costs lie, and how to reduce them, can help companies invest their resources more strategically and lower the huge financial risks at stake.”

Clearly, the accent is on cyber security and data protection at a national level, as the digital world continues to expand.

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