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What Budget 2024 can do to strengthen the cybersecurity sector in India

In anticipation of the Union Budget 2024-2025, India, standing proudly as the world’s 5th largest economy, eagerly awaits transformative measures poised to strengthen its global standing. As the nation stands on the brink of a critical budget announcement, these expectations emphasise the imperative for forward-looking policies that will intricately shape the trajectory of India’s economic landscape. The budget is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping India’s economic growth and global competitiveness, particularly in the realm of cybersecurity.

The technology industry’s expectations in the run-up to the budget underscore the indispensable role of digital infrastructure, identity, and security in India’s ambitious journey towards becoming a global technology hub.

A key element of this journey is the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, a kickstart to ethical AI adoption. The industry recognises the DPDP Act as a foundational step toward enforcing responsible data practices, ensuring a balance between fostering innovation, and regulating data usage. With penalties for unethical use, the DPDP Act sets the stage for a secure and compliant digital environment. Implementing and enforcing the DPDP Act will be crucial in aligning the country more closely with international privacy standards.

Deepfakes and AI: A growing threat demanding enforcementRecent events, like the incident in Lucknow where a woman was defrauded of Rs 32,000 by cybercriminals using AI to mimic her voice, highlight the escalating danger of deepfakes and AI manipulation. The increasing concern of the government regarding KYC scams involving deepfakes further emphasizes this threat. The finance ministry’s directive to banks to be ready for deepfake risks indicates the need for enforcing cybersecurity measures. Budget 2024 should allocate resources for education, policy-making, R&D and adopting robust cybersecurity measures capable of detecting and preventing incidents where individual voices are cloned to deceive people.

Research and development: bedrock of cybersecurity excellence

A forward-looking cybersecurity strategy demands continuous research and development (R&D) efforts. Budget 2024 should allocate funds for cybersecurity R&D projects, fostering collaboration between industry and academia. The role of governments in supporting academia-industry partnerships becomes crucial in developing cutting-edge technologies for cybersecurity.The collaboration between banks and fintechs, insurance companies and insurtechs leading to innovations in customer service emphasises the importance of R&D. A dedicated budget for Research in cybersecurity can pave the way for innovations that stay ahead of evolving cyber threats.Incentives for cybersecurity and cyber insurance adoption: bridging the resource gap
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face challenges in implementing even the basic cybersecurity measures due to resource constraints. Budgetary incentives, combined with the promotion of cyber insurance adoption, create a synergistic approach. This not only encourages businesses to invest in cybersecurity but also provides a safety net in the aftermath of a cyber-attack. Furthermore, dedicating funds towards national awareness campaigns, educational initiatives, and the formulation of best practices in cybersecurity for both individuals and businesses will aid in diminishing the effects of cyber threats and ensure better preparedness among individuals.

The call for reassessment of goals by SBI chairman Dinesh Khara highlights the need for incentives and support for private conceptualisation and structuring. Budget allocation in this area ensures that businesses, regardless of size, contribute to the nation’s overall cybersecurity resilience.

Budget 2024 should allocate funds for developing and enhancing incident response capabilities. Additionally, promoting the adoption of cyber insurance among businesses can provide a financial safety net in the aftermath of a cyber-attack. A robust incident response mechanism, coupled with cyber insurance, ensures a holistic enforcement approach to managing and mitigating the impact of cyber incidents.

Safeguarding critical infrastructure
State sponsored cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure can hamper the nation’s economic growth. It is a national necessity to enforce and centralise efforts to safeguard critical infrastructure, which is crucial to averting significant losses in the event of a cyber-attack. Budget 2024 should prioritise funding for initiatives that enhance the cybersecurity resilience of critical sectors. A robust cybersecurity framework, enforced through stringent policies, is necessary to safeguard the nation against potential economic losses.

Simultaneously, it becomes essential to allocate funds to mandate cyber insurance for Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), the Power and Energy sector, Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), and Healthcare to mitigate financial risks in the event of a catastrophic occurrence.

Strengthening cybersecurity: A strategic step towards global leadership
Strengthening cybersecurity is not just a defensive measure; it is a strategic step towards positioning India as a global leader in technology and innovation. The upcoming budget is an opportunity to work towards making this vision a reality and secure the nation against the evolving cyber threats of the digital age. As India invests in digital infrastructure, R&D, skill development, and international collaboration, it enforces a commitment to building a secure and innovation-friendly digital ecosystem. The budget, as an enabler of these initiatives, is a testament to India’s dedication to becoming a global technology powerhouse.

The writer is Co-Founder, Mitigata.

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