Data Security and its Future… in the words of a Bureaucrat

Mithileshwar Thakur_IRS ME_indianbureaucracy_Data Security
Mithileshwar Thakur_IRS ME_indianbureaucracy_Data Security

The importance of data in our modern day lives, particularly in the context of the criticality of the role it plays in decision- making, can hardly be over-emphasized. Wrong set of socio-economic indicator data can lead to incorrect & unsound analysis, faulty diagnosis and consequently an entirely misdirected public policy prescription having enough potential to play havoc with the governance.

Technology has always been a double-edged sword. Most glaring example of this is digitisation of data. While digitisation has made accessibility of data far easier for common citizens, it has also ended up increasing the risk of its vulnerability to theft, tampering and manipulation.

Data theft and cyber crimes have become an everyday affair.  Hacking is not only not uncommon but also an object of fancy and fashion among high-tech miscreants. The online availability of plethora of hacking tools has made things worse . Vast majority of Fortune 500 companies (roughly 97-98%) is said to have been hacked with the rest being unsure and uncertain. No computer network can possibly claim to be 100% safe and secure, with new definitions of viruses multiplying every passing day outpacing the R & D efforts of anti-virus software giants. Most of the reputed companies , agencies and entities therefore employ ethical hackers in an effort to develop counter-defense mechanisms to guarantee protection  against system and data security breaches .   The disturbing news however is that present day anti-virus softwares are reportedly capable of detecting roughly 5% of the newly created viruses only. This is reason enough to sound alarm on the vulnerability of stored data .

 In this digitally evolved world , any virtual attack on the impregnable digital barrier of the sensitive and supposedly protected  websites  of any sovereign nation is much more damaging and demoralizing than the attack by the enemy country across its physical boundary . India , being the biggest platform of data outsourcing, needs robust data protection mechanism to deal with the threat .   The awareness with regard to data security and data privacy  in our country is somehow not of the desired level .

This menace can be handled at two levels: one at technological , the other at legislative level .

India does not have any separate law exclusively designed for data protection . However, Indian courts have interpreted ‘data protection’ within the ambit of “Right to Privacy”as implicit in the Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India  . Data protection issues nonetheless get adequately addressed by Section 43 A and Section 72 A of  The Information Technology Act 2000.

Technically , data security concerns can be tackled  by implementing tiered data protection and security model including multiple perimeter rings of defense to counter threats , employing logical security –i.e. combination of data encryption , authorisation, authentication and passwords, , use of firewalls , anti spyware and virus detection programs on servers and network-addressed storage systems  We can and we must use our enormous prowess of software technology to create impregnable firewalls , uncommon encryption codes to beat hackers in their own game and even use our  technological superiority to export this technology to the rest of the world .

About the Author: Shri Mithileshwar Thakur is presently posted as Additional Director General in the Directorate of Anti Dumping and Allied Duties at New Delhi and the views expressed are his own. Shri Thakur is a Gold Medallist in B. Tech (Mechanical Engineering) and recipient of merit scholarship and topper of university /board at all levels.

Prior to joining Indian Civil Service, he has worked as member of IRS in Indian Railways and as Engineer in well reputed companies like NTPC, Tata Motors and Tata Steel. He has served as visiting faculty to many reputed institutions like IIT, Kharagpur; National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics; Indian Institute of Foreign Trade; RBI officers ‘Training Institute ; Narsee Monjee Institute of Management to name a few. . His areas of interest also include Intellectual Property Right issues, Cyber laws , regularly contributes to the reputed magazines and newspapers.  He has presided over many functions and seminars organised by reputed Chambers of Commerce & Industry like FICCI, CII, FIEO, Indian Chamber of Commerce etc. He had been Government nominated member of the working group set up by the Govt for Local Currency Trade. He has also been a Key Speaker and panellist in many important forums and has also represented the Government outside India on important platforms.

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