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A spectre is haunting the new year, one more frightening than the virus with the spike protein: the spectre of cybercrime. Data is being stolen and hawked on the Dark Web, ransomware freezes vital computer systems till its implanter is paid off, spyware steals vital data and intelligence, compromises corporate secrets and national security. As digitisation grows in extent and pace, the universe of predation expands in tandem. Work from home (WFH) increases the vulnerability to cyberattacks manifold. Companies, especially small and medium businesses, need guidance and assistance to ward off this menace.
Cybercrime is a threat, but also an opportunity. Large, system-level technology providers, of web and application servers, must take on the challenge. The large-scale, months-long breach of vital US government departments by alleged Russian hackers was managed through an update to a network management tool supplied by SolarWinds. Whether companies and governments can afford to rely on a number of different software providers is open to question. If that means loss of competition and specialisation, a new breed of software integrators who filter all software and upgrades with forensic rigour must enter the picture. For ordinary citizens who happily download and instal all manner of apps on their phones, agreeing to terms that they hardly ever bother to read through, safety perhaps lies in mandating the stores from where apps are downloaded, hosted, for the most part, by Google and Apple, to show more rigour in keeping malware out.
The first task is for the government to secure its own systems and create a protocol for employee conduct to ensure that lax individual security habits do not become the system’s Achilles heel.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.