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Telangana to come up with a cyber crime law with deliberations currently underway

The announcement comes after a spate of cyber attacks targeted India’s critical infrastructure, including one in Telangana.

Telangana is currently formulating its cybersecurity and cybercrime law said the state’s Minister for IT and Industries KT Rama Rao. “Telangana will be the first state in the country to draft out its legislation on cybercrime. We are drafting this in tandem with Nalsar (University of Law),” Rama Rao said during an event. He added that the idea to draft such a law took root when the Parliamentary Standing Committee for IT visited Hyderabad recently and it was brought to light that India does not have a dedicated cybercrime law.

Confirming the development to MediaNama, an official in Telangana’s IT Department added that inputs are being taken from stakeholders. The official did not provide a time frame on when the draft would be open for consultation.

Why is Telangana bringing the law? “Crime is changing even as we speak. Crime is not so much about a few thugs on the street anymore. Crime is also changing its form. Cybercrime is becoming more and more dangerous and more prevalent,” Rao said.

There has been a spate of state-backed cyber attacks on India’s critical infrastructure, including ones on Telangana and Maharashtra’s power infrastructure. There also has been a number of data leaks which has affected several companies. It must be pointed out that India still does not have a data protection law, and the National Cyber Security Strategy which has been in the pipeline since 2019, has not been finalised yet.

Constantly paranoid about surveillance: Telangana IT minister

“In today’s world where your phone talks to your refrigerator, which also talks to your car, which also talks to your washing machine — We live in this interesting world where, each device by itself can talking to the other without the need for any human intervention. It is both exciting and bit scary,” KT Rama Rao, Telangana IT minister said.

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Rama Rao also confessed that as a politician his phone may be surveilled by those who may want to know his political strategies and so on.

As politicians, our phones are constantly looked into I am sure. There are people of different hues and shades cutting across the political spectrum who want to know exactly what my strategies are, what my political strategies are etc in winning elections, in contesting, in competing. So, we are constantly paranoid, constantly worried, and constantly looking over the shoulders to what is happening, who is doing what in our phones — KT Rama Rao, Telangana IT minister

Rama Rao is not the only politician to talk about surveillance on themselves. Amid the Pegasus revelations, Congress politician Rahul Gandhi had said, “My phone isn’t a potential target, it is tapped. It is clearly tapped. It’s not a potential target.”

The Pegasus Project revealed that journalists, politicians, activists, and other public figures were possibly subject to intrusive surveillance of their phones. Pegasus is the Israel-based NSO Group’s spyware that can suck up messages, contact lists, and other personal data from a variety of apps on iPhone and Android devices, even with recent software updates.

Besides Rahul Gandhi, Pegasus was reportedly used to surveil IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and aides to former chief ministers of Karnataka Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy, among others.

Telangana formulated a cybersecurity policy in 2016

In 2016, Telangana formulated and enacted a cybersecurity policy to bring in more investments and develop more startups that focused on cybersecurity. The department identified four key areas in the cybersecurity domain which it claimed would help generate more employment and boost investments

  • Cyber security
  • Data centre
  • Data analytics
  • Open data

The policy gives incentives to cyber security firms on server space at subsidised rates and reimbursement of internet and patent filing costs. The firms under this sector also receive grants to set up R&D facilities.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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