The past couple of days have brought cyber security or rather the lack of it into the living room of the daily citizen. Social media introduced ‘ransomware and WannaCry’ in the the daily lexicon of millions. Memes on our banking system and ATM’s being shutdown dominated social media. There were even the usual Sardar and Rajnikanth jokes that used cyber security as a theme. Humour apart, what does WannaCry and its impact signify for the Indian nation.
Two other messages on social media in the past fortnight caught my eye. One was a news item of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) a think tank affiliated to the RSS accusing the Niti Aayog and bureaucrats of three key central ministries of ‘sabotaging the Prime Ministers vision of providing medicines at affordable prices to the poor’ . In a scathing indictment the news item highlighted that in a letter to the PM, the SJM has accused the NITI Aayog of pursuing an agenda that is “against national interests and fundamentally anti-poor.” In another video widely circulated on social media S Gurumurthy the well known RSS ideologue on a public stage gave a speech where he highlighted the blind implementation of Basel banking norms as unsuitable to Indian conditions and inhibiting India’s economic growth. In yet another instance a very distinguished Academic who has had a very wide exposure in the West and is also pro government conveyed to the author that, ‘in India we lack confidence in taking our own decisions, which are the different from the ones which have been implemented in the West for some time‘. He also observed that the Chinese have that self confidence. These are all very revealing insights shorn of political bias and give a true picture of the national decision making process.
The intricacies of drug pricing and the pros and cons of Basel norms for the banking system are beyond my modest understanding of the subject matter and I leave it to Messrs SJM and S Gurumurthy to ensure warranted course corrections in national interests. These criticisms and inputs are in national interests and a healthy and open debate on these matters are essential ingredients of a healthy democracy. In the field of Infosec and InfoWar, I have a fair understanding of the subject and I can see the interesting parallels; urgent course corrections and policy initiatives are warranted to protect our national security. The evidences that have surfaced on WannaCry is significant. The ransomeware was made by unknown actors who used a leaked vulnerability of the Windows OS stockpiled by a US Govt entity. Sufficient evidences have also surfaced that Microsoft is a partner of these US intelligence agencies and such partners are paid for inserting vulnerabilities and also maintain unpatched vulnerabilities that can be exploited at a time of choosing. These companies have documented histories of using FUDas a marketing strategy.
For those spending taxpayers money for such products, I can in due earnestness request, please move away from such products, we cannot have tax payers money being spent on them. Please move to domestic alternatives that exist, if they are not as good please invest and upgrade them. Do not give specious arguments like air gap, further contracts to the same company for threat intelligence, domain controllers etc, you fool no one. Excuses like ease of use and legacy policies are just hogwash, please upgrade your skills and equipment. Last but not least, although we believe in universal brotherhood, open societies, freedom, democracy and shared values, as on date we are a Sovereign, Independent, Democratic Republic with different national interests please maintain them and do not compromise our interests for the sake of others.
There are those who might argue that we have progressed as a society since Independence and we should not criticise or examine our prevailing system. For them I can only say that without doubt we have progressed, but we need to compare the progress with other nations and societies. In this comparison we might hold our own in South Asia but when compared to other nations of the world that started on a similar development path we lag far behind inspite of modest advances in several fields. Vast sections of our population live in poverty and squalor. We now have one of the largest youth bulges in history, that has been called a demographic dividend. If our policies for economic growth fail, this youth bulge will become the biggest national security problem. The nation and history awaits!