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Crypto without oversight is a threat to sovereignty: Maharashtra IGP Brijesh Singh

In his talk, Singh spoke about the role of crypto in economic conflict and the need for cyber preparedness in India.

IGP Brijesh Singh (left) speaks at the Cyber Warfare 2021 event

“Technological superiority is going to determine the sovereignty of a country of a nation state in the coming times,” said Brijesh Singh, the Inspector General of Police under the Government of Maharashtra in a session at the Cyber Warfare Symposium 2021.

In his keynote address titled “Cyber Preparedness: Enemy At The Gate,” he spoke about the dangers of cryptocurrencies as tools for economic warfare and citizen participation in cyberattacks among other things. Until recently, Singh served as the head of Maharashtra’s cyber cell.

Cyber preparedness key to sovereignty: Brijesh Singh

Here are some of the key points Singh made in his keynote address and in the Q/A session:

  • Crypto for economic warfare: In his address, Singh highlighted the threat of adversary states controlling your economy by exploiting vulnerabilities in cryptocurrencies:

    Imagine an adversary state. If it finds a technical solution to attack the cryptocurrencies or dominates the flow of cryptocurrencies in your region, then they would be very well able to control your economy… So in a linked economy, if you have a kind of currency which is just based on speculation and has no control of the central banks anywhere, then it is a huge threat to the sovereignty of nation States. – Brijesh Singh

    As an example, Singh pointed out that Pakistan used to print currency notes and send them to India to cause inflation as a means of economic warfare. “Imagine how easy that becomes if you have a cryptocurrency,” Singh added.

  • Technological superiority for sovereignty: Singh pointed out that cyber warfare is happening right now, citing countries like China, North Korea, even Iran, Pakistan, United States, Israel, and UK which have developed superior offensive capabilities. He also highlighted India’s need to do better:

    If you look at the cyber power index, then we [India] are not amongst the first five or ten. That is a cause of concern because technological superiority is going to determine the sovereignty of a country of a nation state in the coming times. – Brijesh Singh (emphasis ours)

  • Defacement of websites: In response to a question regarding civilian participation in cyberspace defense, Singh took a stance against the defacement of government websites:

    I am also personally against defacement sprees which we do between India and Pakistan. It just leads to bad blood. It doesn’t lead to anything because in half an hour that page is up… It’s very kiddish and it should be stopped. If at all offensive cyber warfare has to be done, it has to have a clear mandate. It has to be controlled properly. There has to be oversight and serious professionalism about it. – Brijesh Singh

  • Offensive strategies for corporates: A participant asked Singh if corporations should consider offensive cyber strategies, which Singh warned against:

    That would be a dangerous game because corporates won’t be able to handle any backlash … If your adversary is an ideological adversary, it’s going to cause some damage. But if you are facing a nation state, it has deep pockets. It has huge reserves, it has R&D, it has tradecraft, it has malware and it’s vastly superior to you. It’s going to just come back and destroy [you]. – Brijesh Singh

Recent cyber attacks in India

In his talk, Singh spoke about the need for cyber preparedness in India. This need is highlighted particularly by the several recent cyber attacks that have led to data of Indian citizens being leaked:

  • CDSL vulnerability: Personal data of 4.39 crore Indian investors was exposed by a vulnerability in the  Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL). Details that were exposed included residential address, net worth, annual tax returns, marital status, and occupation among others.
  • 30 data breaches reported: Between January and June 2021, 30 data breach incidents were reported to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, a response to an RTI filed by MediaNama revealed.
  • Acer India breach: Acer India’s servers were hacked in October by a group called Desorden who claimed to have stolen over 60 GB of files and databases.
  • Malware targeting Indian bank users: The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) issued an advisory in September about an Android malware masquerading as a portal for Income Tax refund to target Indian online banking users.

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Written By

Reporter at MediaNama. Email: nishant@medianama.com

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

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