by Pranav Mukul

With an aim to deal with the increasing threats in the cyber space on account of increasing proliferation of internet services, the government will set up a Rs 1,000 crore fund, administered by a high-powered committee chaired by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, which would look into areas of research and development of cyber-security products and systems, a senior government official. However, despite the strategic nature of this fund it has been kept open to private academia and industry depending on the expertise required for specific projects.

The official said that till date the R&D in cyber-security was mainly funded by Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), Department of Electronics and Information Technology, and Department of Science and Technology, but the amount spent in this area was far less when compared with the spread of IT services in the country.

The fund, which would be utilised over the next five years, would cover areas of research and development activities such as building of big data and analytics engines, systems for discovery of vulnerabilities, forensic and network monitoring tools, among several others. However, the official added that the primary focus area would be indigenisation of cyber-security products and systems, and a special emphasis would be laid on developing strategic technological tools that are used by defence and law enforcement agencies.

The proposal, which has already received the approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security, states that depending on the availability of expertise and knowledge, the monies from the fund would be provided to academic institutes, universities, as well as industries in the private sector. Even as the private sector is expected to be included in the purview of this fund, the institutions granting out aid or contracts would not be able to do so without the knowledge of the high-powered committee.

Apart from the NSA as the chairperson, the committee will comprise 12 other members–deputy NSA, representative of the principal scientific adviser, CEO of Niti Aayog, Chairman of National Technical Research Organisation, Director General of DRDO, National Cyber Security Coordinator, and secretaries of departments of home, IT, telecom, science & technology, atomic energy and expenditure.

Furthermore, any technology or intellectual property developed by any of the private universities or companies, would be held and controlled by the government, the official said.

For the management of the programmes under this fund, the government official informed, the high-powered committee will set up technical expert committees depending on the nature of the project under question. The technical committee would be responsible for evaluating and making recommendations for each project, and the high-powered committee would then direct the program.

This comes in the backdrop of India’s financial services sector facing severe scrutiny after nearly 32 lakh debit cards were affected following a security breach at some of the biggest banks in India such as State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, Yes Bank. According to the National Payments Council of India, this episode involved fraudulent withdrawals of a reported Rs 1.3 crore from cards of 19 banks. According to 2015 report by PwC, organisations in India detected an average of 6,284 cyber security incidents, surging up 117 per cent over the previous year’s average of 2,895 incidents. This was much higher in comparison with the international trend, which witnessed only a 39 per cent increase in security incidents.