We missed this earlier: India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) empanelled Bharti Airtel to provide cybersecurity services to Union and State Governments as well as public sector entities, in addition to corporate customers, the company announced on March 31. Airtel provides end-to-end security services under the brand Airtel Secure. In its release, Airtel said it has set up a “Security Intelligence Centre” with access to artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to track potential online threats.
Last November, the government reduced the number of empanelled companies from 90 to 33, with little explanation as to why this was done. As of today, the list has 48 companies with validity until 31 October 2023. It is necessary for private companies to be audited by empanelled auditors in order to solicit government contracts. The auditors are also sought for security audits by private companies looking to enter partnerships with other software companies.
Airtel is making inroads in the cybersecurity space at a time when companies and government agencies are facing an unprecedented number of cyberattacks. More than half of the Indian companies surveyed by Sophos, a British IT security company, said that they fell victim to a successful cyber attack in the last 12 months. The Ministry of Home Affairs earlier revealed that CERT tracked nearly 12 lakh cybersecurity incidents in 2020.
Government entities, in specific, have been targeted multiple times in the recent past. Last month, CERT issued an alert to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways regarding “targeted intrusion activities” with “possible malicious intentions” aimed at the Indian transport sector. Before that, there were incidents that involved attackers using compromised government emails ending in @gov.in or @nic.in to carry out phishing scams. In February, Recorded Future, an American company that studies the use of the internet by state actors, uncovered a Chinese state-sponsored cyberattack that was targeting India’s electricity grid and power distribution systems.