In 2020, as Pandemic-related lockdowns were imposed globally, the internet traffic grew almost overnight. Work from home became prevalent, and employees worked from remote locations worldwide. Companies and individuals witnessed a rise in Cybersecurity threats as privacy and security got compromised. As many companies work transnationally, there was an increased need for governments to work collaboratively to have regulations that span nations to mitigate Cybersecurity risks.

To address the growing need for Cybersecurity Transformation and discuss the new age of Cyberattacks and Controls against women & children; IIDS, The British Deputy High Commission, Hyderabad, as part of 'Chevening Conversations' and The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK; organized and hosted two Panel Discussions on Cybersecurity at the Hyderabad campus on 25th of March 2022.

The Panel discussions brought together a diverse community of individuals from the technology, cyber security, and law enforcement agencies who shared fresh perspectives and upcoming ideas with the ISB community and attendees. The illustrious speakers offered valuable information in the discussions and provided participants and the audience with actionable ideas for becoming better cyber-security citizens and leaders. 

Prof. Madhu Viswanathan, Associate Professor of Marketing, ISB and Research Director, IIDSwelcomed the audience and spoke about the urgent need to have conversations around Cybersecurity from the perspective of digital citizens and law enforcement agencies in a growing digital society.

Dr. Andrew Fleming, Deputy British High Commissioner to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, in his address, emphasized the need for more collaborative work within countries and between nations, given the increased Cybersecurity threats in the Pandemic and Post- Pandemic world. He said governments needed to work collaboratively and engage in Cybersecurity Innovations to combat rising Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Warfare threats. 

In her message, Amelia Tuckett, South Asia Cyber Lead at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, pointed out that the speed of digital transformation has been phenomenal. As Cyberthreats become more advanced, complex, and disruptive, a more 'Connected' world must work collaboratively in Cybersecurity to protect itself from Regional, National, and International Cybersecurity threats.

She enumerated a 5-point plan to strengthen the Cyber Ecosystem to thwart the threats of malicious activities, especially during the Pandemic. Reiterating the need for international cooperation and collaboration in the rapidly changing cyberspace, she said governments need to build resilience and protect & promote their Cyber powers. She said it would also be essential to work closely with academicians worldwide to build a resilient Cyber-Infrastructure. The world will benefit from the new generation of Cyber technologies from international collaborations that detect, disrupt, and deter hostile activities globally. The nations can cooperate in areas of Cyber Governance, Cyber Deterrence, and Cyber Resilience.

Damages due to cyber security threats will total $6 trillion by 20211. If measured as a country, it would be the world's third-largest economy after US and China.

The speakers in the session on ‘Security Transformation: Evolution of Cyber Risks Management and Data Protection Post Pandemic World’ concurred that companies should not work in silos but rather in Integrated Cyber defence Systems to reduce security gaps. Organizations need to take preventive measures to stay ahead in the game. Often, Cyber breaches are internal and not external, and companies need to report these breaches. The companies need to enforce the Mandatory Reporting of breaches so that other companies learn from examples. Often, companies fail to report such violations for fear of consequences in the ways of regulatory sanctions.

Deliberating on breaches in nations' Critical Infrastructure, the panel said there must be national laws and international treaties for international compliance in multiple jurisdictions. India needs to get a 'Special Cyber Security Law' soon. There is no room for broken windows in space due to weak enforcement. Criminals often get emboldened because laws exist but are not followed up by punitive actions in the event of violations. This inaction can culminate and perpetuate Cybercrime, Cyber Warfare, and Cyber Terrorism.

With vaccine passports and documentation of immunization records for travel, digital passports will undoubtedly become a hotbed/ valuable target by criminals who will forge, modify and steal such documents. Social Engineering Attacks will continue to rise. To brace against such attacks, people will have to improve their Cyber hygiene habits like updating devices periodically to avoid cyberattacks.

The panel observed that the understanding of 'privacy' has changed among people and the Government with the Pandemic. Governments need to set the intent clear in requiring and mandating information from citizens and not cross the fine line between information collection and Surveillance. Citizens stand to have their Fundamental Right to Privacy compromised if Surveillance is normalized.

Information and communication technologies are powerful tools to enhance gender equality and empower women. But they can also be a threat to a user's physical and emotional integrity. Being a victim of Cybercrime, i.e., online harassment, cyber-stalking, trolling, cyber-pornography, etc., could be a traumatic experience. Men are also scum to various cyber-crimes, but women and children, being one of the most vulnerable parts of society, are easy targets of cybercrime offenders. The second panel on ‘Cyber Crime Against Women: New Age Attacks and Controls’ discussed the new age of Cyberattacks on women & Children and their controls.

In India, several sections of people are unaware of Cybercrime. The law, too, does not recognize it appropriately. Pertinent to women- Cyber-Stalking, Revenge Porn, Bullying, Trolling, Blackmail, Extortion, Privacy Infringement, Revenge Porn, Unauthorized Surveillance, Defamation, Offensive Speeches, Hate Speeches, leaking of personal information on websites are at an all-time high. 

Particularly in India, women don't report crimes against them for fear of further humiliation. A significant lacuna exists in how law enforcers are trained to handle such cases. There's an urgent need to develop sensitivity to such issues. Legislations need to be in place, and there's a need to start conversations around Inclusivity, Gender Diversity, Oppression, and, Discrimination. We can solve a problem only if we recognize it as a problem.

It is essential to look at crime from a judicial point of view. However, it is crucial to build an ecosystem to address crimes against women with the sociological and psychological impact it will have on them. Often, the accuser carries the added burden of being the facilitator of the crime. The panel agreed that for women to feel comfortable reporting Cybercrime to law enforcers, professionalism and sensitivity must be built into the evidence collection mechanism.

Technologically, India is at par with western nations. However, we suffer a cultural lag in the Cyber sense- in terms of awareness, risks involved, and education regarding safeguards to adopt and to respond to & report Cybercrime. Family, society, and Law Enforcement agencies have to be sensitized to offer the victim unconditional support and build an overall robust support mechanism.

Internet walks a fine line between freedom of expression and offensive speech. There are examples of gender-based hate speech online and of trolling. Often the perpetrator gets away because the victim chooses to go offline. However, this is not a solution because the perpetrator will find another victim. The speakers pointed to the gap in the legal system that offers no quick and effective mechanisms to resolve these crimes. Also, the victims don't find it easy to get a restraining order or injunction against the perpetrator. 

Another peculiarity the speakers observed is that the Indian society is in denial of the issues surrounding Cybersecurity. Many parents who grew up in an analog world are ill-equipped to understand the dangers of a digital world; hence hesitate to discuss these subjects with the family. In India, there also exists an urban-rural divide in internet safety. The speakers observed that one way to bridge this gap is through education, transparency, and having content available in vernacular languages.

Rounding up the session, the speakers suggested a few tips for women & children to stay safe online: 

  • Do not accept invites from unknown people.
  • Please do not send money online to people or institutions one has only met online.
  • Observe safe behaviour on dating sites.
  • In case of harassment, file a complaint and follow up. Do not keep quiet. Spread the word. Someone might benefit. 
  • Establish safe circles and volunteer for safety officer roles with kids. Consider forming Cyber Safety Clubs.
  • Play board games (that teach internet safety). 
  • Take control of any content that one posts online. Takedown pictures that anyone could misuse.
  • Incorporate Cyber Safety into school curriculums.
  • Up the game on Cyber Patrol.

The discussion had participation from luminous figures from law enforcement, police department, lawmakers, journalists, data science enthusiasts, and academicians and was very well received by the audience.