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Ministry reveals Defence Cyber Agency now functional, National Cyber Security Strategy in final stages

The tri-service agency has at least 1,000 personnel and will set up units across the country; meanwhile, the government is also looking to implement a new policy addressing key issues in cyberspace. 

Two years after its announcement, the Defence Cyber Agency is now operational under the purview of the Ministry of Defence as per a written reply by the Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt in the Lok Sabha on August 4, 2021. He was responding to a question by Bahujan Samaj Party MP Shyam Singh Yadav in the monsoon session of Parliament.   

Why it matters? The frequency of cyberattacks has risen exponentially in the last few years, especially during the pandemic. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) reported a total of 6,07,220 cybersecurity incidents in the first half of 2021, according to MeitY. Cyberattacks are also becoming more sophisticated wherein victims incur acute financial losses. Cyberattacks against critical infrastructure can have severe national security implications if not prevented or investigated by government agencies.

What is the Defence Cyber Agency? 

The Defence Cyber Agency was developed by the Indian government in collaboration with the armed forces, according to a report by the news portal Qrius. The report explains that the agency’s aim is to combat growing threats of cyberattacks from countries like China and Pakistan. Here are a few more details about the agency:

  • It is a tri-service agency with over 1,000 personnel from the three wings of the defence forces— the army, the navy, and the air force. 
  • The members will report to the Chairman, Chief of Staff Committee and work closely with the National Cyber Security Advisor. Rear Admiral Mohit Gupta was appointed as the first head of the DCA.
  • The agency’s units will be set up all over the country to decentralise cybersecurity efforts and resources, but it will focus on military-related cyber issues and not civilian ones.
  • The agency was formed after the Home, Law, and Defence ministries’ websites were allegedly hacked in 2018 on account of which the Cabinet Committee on Security released funds to form three agencies, one of which is the Defence Cyber Agency. 

Other details from the Defence Ministry’s reply

“Government has approved establishment of Defence Cyber Agency, under the aegis of Ministry of Defence. This agency is now fully functional. To mitigate cyber threats, all the three Services have established their respective Cyber Emergency Response Teams (CERT),” read the parliamentary response by MoS Ajay Bhatt.  

In response to the question on whether the country reported any instances of cyber warfare in the last decade, the minister said that “there have been repeated attempts by various cyber threat actors to target our various sectors”.  

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He added that measures were being taken to detect and deter these threats. “Adequate safeguards have been instituted in the form of Cyber Audits, Physical Checks and Policy Guidelines to ensure a robust cyber posture of armed forces.”

National Cyber Security Strategy on the cards

The Ministry of Defence also informed the lower house of the Parliament that the government was in the final stages of approving the National Cyber Security Strategy that has been in the pipeline since 2019. 

The new policy is set to cover several aspects of cyberspace including:

  • Governance and data as a national resource
  • Building indigenous capabilities
  • Cyber audit
  • Drones
  • Decentralisation of cybersecurity responsibilities
  • Cyber insurance
  • Internet of Things
  • Ransomware

Currently, India adheres to the National Cyber Security Policy 2013 but the policy is considered to be outdated given the pace of change that has taken place in cyberspace over the last eight years.

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