News | November 17, 2011

EWI Launches New Delhi Summit Process; India pushes cybersecurity cooperation

India is pushing aggressively to foster closer international cooperation on cybersecurity, and the EastWest Insitute (EWI) has launched a process to work with India on this critical issue.

“Countries that share the same societal values of freedom of expression and speech need to come together in cyberspace,” said Indian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal.

Sibal spoke during a press conference hosted by the EastWest Institute and its Indian partners the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). Its purpose was to launch the New Delhi Summit Process and announce the Third Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit to be held in New Delhi next year.

“It is essential to have government-to-government collaboration, especially in the field of information sharing on cyber attacks and cyber crime,” Sibal said.

India–U.S. cooperation on cybersecurity has only deepened over the past year. One good example of that progress is the memorandum of understanding on cybersecurity information sharing signed by Indian Secretary of the Departments of Telecommunications and Information Technology R. Chandrashekhar and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in July 2011.

EWI Co-Chairman Ross Perot, Jr., said government cooperation is only half of the story, pointing out that private-public partnerships that share sensitive information across sectors also play a key role in protecting cyberspace. “So far, private-public partnerships have focused primarily on domestic markets with often limited success due to too many ineffective initiatives and too little trust between the government and the private sector. Instead, these partnerships need to expand across borders,” Perot said.

During the EastWest Institute press conference, IT Secretary Chandrashekhar argued that in cyberspace, “there is no Track I or Track II diplomacy. We are all on the same track, and we have to work together.”

Indian officials have ample reason to emphasize world collaboration on these issues. As a developing country, India is just as exposed to threats from cyberspace as the developed world. In fact, as both Minister Sibal and Secretary Chandrashekhar stated, the subcontinent might be more vulnerable to cyber attacks because their consequences could be more devastating than in Western countries.

“Cyberspace is the lifeline of economic and social development in India,” Chandrashekhar said. Minister Sibal supported this assertion, arguing, “The developing world has a great opportunity to leapfrog to the digitalized world, especially in finance, administration, and communications. Because of that, however, we need security solutions more than ever. Any new cyber threat can disrupt the leapfrogging and our fragile process of development.”

The Indian Parliament recently passed legislation to switch the government to paperless communication and administration over 25 years. Cyber threats, however, are on the rise on the subcontinent. For example, according to the Norton Cybercrime Report, nearly 30 million people in India fell victim to cyber crime in 2010, with a total financial loss of USD 4 billion. India now also ranks as one of the top five contributors to spam. Since spam often carries malicious code that can help penetrate or damage systems, these emails are more than just a nuisance; they are a real threat to commerce and India’s businesses.

Another threat is the protection and repair of undersea cables in India’s territorial waters, which carry 99 percent of transcontinental financial transactions and data between India and other parts of the world. All of India’s major Internet and telecommunication service providers are connected to overseas telecommunications systems through these international gateways. India has multiple undersea cables—lSTM 2, 3, 4, Safe, falcon flag, and i2i.

International information flow depends on the safety and security of these cables. Disruptions have occurred in the past due to accidents caused by the movements of ships, and due to natural disasters. Cable cuts are problematic, since single points of failure in the undersea cable system can cause severe disruption to the outsourcing industry in India.

To counter some of these threats, Minister Sibal outlined India’s near term agenda for cybersecurity. First, India will aggressively pursue means to foster better collaboration on cybersecurity with like-minded countries. Second, India actively will promote a discussion on a global vision of cybersecurity, which does not yet exist. Third, there will need to be increased discussion of a new local, regional and global legal framework to better combat cyber crime. Finally, India is searching for the means to acquire a faster and more advanced global crisis response mechanism to cyber threats.

The EastWest Institute is actively supporting the Indian government in these endeavors. The Institute first raised the matter of cybersecurity in India nearly two years ago in a meeting with National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, which was followed by meetings with various other government officials and private sector leaders.

The launch of the New Delhi Summit Process is the result of these discussions. This process will address new actions for international cooperation on cybersecurity in three new fields: supply chain integrity, managing the shift to “cloud” and other globally deployed services in cyberspace, and payload security. The Institute will explore these critical issues with its Indian partners—FICCI, NASSCOM and the Data Security Council of India (DSCI).

As John Edwin Mroz, President of the EastWest Institute, stated during the press conference, “We need to keep racing to stay abreast of the implications of change driven by new technologies, and the agenda grows by the day. Our initiative is meant to spur awareness and help rally the Indian business, media and policy communities to help make a difference in protecting cyberspace.”

Minister Sibal concluded his remarks, emphasizing, “In cyberspace, we are not dealing any more with your problem or my problem. It is our problem. India must take a leadership role in convincing other nations that this is the case. The launch of the New Delhi Summit Process is an important milestone in forging all stakeholders together.”