Indians are scouring the Internet to find the best deals for their purchases. They aren’t the only ones looking for a virtual bonanza. A large number of criminals are lurking in the dark alleys of the online world too, looking to steal people’s identities, hack into their accounts, trick them into revealing the information, or infect their devices with malware
Internet might have made our lives easier, but with every benefit comes a cost. The online medium has exposed us to many threats as well. Recently Nitin Gupta, a 29 year-old working professional, booked an air ticket from New Delhi to Mumbai using his Gmail account with a travel website. For next one week, he kept getting promotional offers of discount for flights between the two metros on his Gmail. How did the other travel websites got to know about his booking? Is someone keeping a track of what Nitin does on the Internet? Did the emails that he received promising cheaper tickets were malicious and harmful in nature?
These are some of the genuine concerns that many people face every day in their work and personal lives. With Internet penetrating faster and touching the lives of more persons in this country of 1.21 billion population— these concerns are going to rise manifold. This would be both at an individual as well as organisational level.
Internet usage is spreading fast—for business or leisure—it is increasingly becoming a basic necessity of life and profession.
On the hindsight, in a growing economy like India about 60% of emails circulated are spams and 15.3% of world’s malware (malicious software) are generated from this Asian nation. This sounds unexpected for a country known globally for its IT talent. This means Nitin’s fears cannot be discounted. These days, valuable information is shared over the Internet and any leak of sensitive data can lead to irreparable damage. Globally, companies such as Adobe, JP Morgan Chase, Gmail, AOL, European Central Bank, Apple and Yahoo, among hundreds of other companies have seen biggest data breaches and hacks.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to digitalise India, this country could also face these threats. It is here that the key role played by IT security firms such as Symantec that offers cyber security to customers across the globe, comes to the forefront. The California-based firm, which reported global revenue of $6.68 billion in FY14, offers a range of services including managed security services, mobile security and management, anti-virus, archiving and e-discovery, backup, data loss prevention, email security, encryption (PGP), protection suite, user authentication, SSL certificates and cloud services, among others.
“It is alarming to see the disproportionate number of cyber threats in India on a global scale versus its current Internet population. With the
exponential growth in the demand for inter connectivity and trends such as mobility, cloud and Internet of Things (IOT), cyber criminals will look to target vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure of businesses and consumers in India,” says Michael Counsel, CTO & VP—consulting (products & services) for Asia Pacific and Japan, at Symantec.
Symantec operates its security control services from five Security Operations Centres or generally known as SOCs, which are located in Chennai, Sydney, Tokyo, Reading (UK) and Herndon (US). Recently, this reporter experienced a live demonstration of a newly renovated SOC in Sydney. The centre located on the 16th floor of a high rise building at few miles away from the Sydney harbour is like a police control room but without any noise. Everyone talks on chats— among colleagues or with clients. Round the clock, client data is being examined and any unknown or alien activity is reported within a minute. The SOC analyses more than 21,500 security incidents every day and categorise them into informational, warning, critical or emergency. Based on the categorisation, it is then treated and the entire exercise doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
Security analysts working at SOC are Symantec’s most important resources, reckons Peter Sparkes, senior director for cyber security services at the company. Indian born Paramvir Ahuja heads a team of smart analysts at the Sydney SOC. Ahuja, who has also set up a laboratory at home to ‘play,’ admits that his job is critical and he remembers how he had to face seven rounds of interviews before stepping into Symantec.
In an emerging country such as India, where users are new to Internet, online trust matters the most. There is a situation where users want to consume more, businesses want to offer more and government too want to offer more. For example, Nitin needs to remember five different passwords—for his Gmail, Facebook, credit card, Internet banking and his office login. Many of the users may keep the same password for all the accounts, which may not be safe. This leads to ‘security fatigue,’ says Nick Savvides, senior principal systems engineer at Symantec. “There is a lot happening in India today. In the emerging markets, it is important to develop a legal framework that offers to investigate and prosecute cyber criminals,” he feels.
Not just individuals but business organisations are not safe too. In the first quarter of 2013, India ranked 7th on the top 10 countries globally being infected by financial trojans. India has moved out from having Internet access in pockets to have a widely connected network. Symantec’s technologies help to protect users from being victims of cyber crimes. With cyber criminals coming with frequent innovations, Norton by Symantec (the consumer brand for the firm) too is working towards rolling out advanced threat protection solutions. It is targeting specific vertical markets such as industrial control systems, smart grids, automotive, manufacturing and healthcare.
Nitin has another issue—“How do I protect against growing mobile threats?” With increasing use of mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, it has become important to know how to protect corporate apps and data on personally-owned devices. Issues that a professional may face today are— How do I prevent corporate data leaking into unauthorised apps? Or how do I enable mobile productivity without comprising security or the user experience? Today, globally 7 billion people are connected to over 9 billion devices and this is expected to go upto 50 billion by 2020.In order to address the mobile devices, Symantec offers an integrated modular solution on a single platform—Suite 5.0.
“The road ahead is to offer real time intelligent protection to customers,” says Michael Lin, vice-president for mobility at Symantec.
With the Modi government proposing to build smart cities and develop infrastructure, cyber security is going to play a vital role in years to come.
“Security is a growing concern in India, as government is moving ahead to build more infrastructure. Symantec has done programmes with several governments and India is fascinating because mobile penetration is massive,” says Sean Kopelke, senior director of technology for Symantec.
Top 7 PREDICTIONS FOR 2015
Mobile devices will become more attractive targets
Attacks on the Internet of Things will focus on smart home automation
Privacy will remain compromised for mobile apps
Scammers will continue to run profitable ransomware scams
Prominent data leaks of 2014 will keep cybersecurity in the spotlight in 2015
Distributed denial-of-service will further rise as a threat
User behaviour will take centre stage as security moves beyond passwords