With demonetisation boosting e-wallets, building a strong cyber security capability is a must

Published: December 23, 2016 6:17:27 AM

The government’s move to demonetise two big currency notes has brought with it a spectrum of both positive and negative impacts.

The government’s move to demonetise two big currency notes has brought with it a spectrum of both positive and negative impacts. This surgical attack may well go beyond cleaning up corruption and money laundering in the country. While on the one hand the move to strip the legal tender status of old R500 and R1,000 notes sent chill down the spines of those hoarding black money, on the other it has sent those jittery e-commerce users reeling into a state of apprehension.

As a direct consequence of demonetisation, there has been a marked increase in the number of digital transactions and the use of Point of Sale (POS) and e-wallet facilities. With demonetisation pushing more and more people into the digital fringes in the country, fortifying online safety parameters is the backbone of a strong cashless economy.

The fact that a large number of incidents of ATMs being infected with malware and cases of data hacking are coming into light, underlines the urgent need for stepping up the security structure of the whole online network in the country. A report by international security agency FireEye suggests that 38% of e-commerce companies in India are vulnerable to threat from hackers. In the wake of this sudden digital dawn, there needs to be an equally safe digital environment for people to have complete faith in the system.

Digital crime and policing

The concept of malware is not new, but with increased adoption of technology in every walk of life—from wearables to e-retail and the app revolution—the whole digital set-up is proving to be an attractive package for cyber criminals. Hackers, too, are evolving with technology advancement and are coming up with new ways of sneaking into precious data networks. With a rise in the use of ‘ransomware’ and other new weaponised forms of software, along with the reinvention of older attack pathways, it is time for the cyber police to think and act one step beyond.

With a growing dependence on the digital world, the magnitude and the effect of these cyber attacks are also magnifying. It is, therefore, imperative for any organisation today to essentially invest in data and network security. There is a need for strengthening many aspects, ranging from intrusion detection technologies to programs that prevent data compromise and digital attacks from unauthorised access.

Network security has gone beyond putting simple preventive measures such as having application firewalls or spyware detection in place, to a point where network traffic needs to be continually monitored and analysed. It is also important to explicitly show the consumers that the network or website they are using has a good security policy and practice in place through the use of exemplary encryption methodologies.

Another window of access for cyber criminals is the use of biometric authentication systems, where any accidental access to wrong entities can prove devastating for a company. To counter this, there needs to be a multi-factor authentication (MFA) system in place. An agile security mechanism and a holistic cyber defence system are essential for organisations to get ahead of hackers.

Upgrading knowledge

This segment of the industry is a very specific one and requires highly specialised skills to implement countermeasures. These specialists need expertise in the field of cyber and data security, as well as network safety. With growing threats to the digital space and an acute shortage of experts, there is an urgent need for addressing the issue of deficiency of knowledge. We need to promote the concept of ethical hacking and train more professional white hackers, who have hands-on knowledge about tools and techniques to investigate and mitigate points of vulnerability in any organisation’s digital environment.

The idea of a cashless society is indeed a great one; and this episode of demonetisation is a giant step towards that. But the dream of a digital economy is built on a fragmented foundation until there is strong cybersecurity holding the pieces together.

Vikalp Jain

The author is president & co-founder, Acadgild, a technology education start-up. Views are personal

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