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Need to Deepen India-ASEAN Cyber Space Collaboration Amid Increased Digitisation During Pandemic: Official

The rapidly increasing threats to safe and secure cyberspace in the COVID and post-COVID era, make ASEAN-India Cyber Cooperation imminent (Representative image/Reuters)

The rapidly increasing threats to safe and secure cyberspace in the COVID and post-COVID era, make ASEAN-India Cyber Cooperation imminent (Representative image/Reuters)

A recent assessment report of the COVID-19 cyber crime impact on Asia and the South Pacific region by INTERPOL shows that the major cyber security trends include COVID-19 related frauds, phishing campaigns and online sale of fake medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPEs).

With increasing dependence on digital technologies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an enhanced need for India-ASEAN collaboration and implementation of measures for securing the cyber domain from "malicious actors", a senior Ministry of External Affairs official said. Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary East in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the "digitisation" and "cyberisation of our engagements" - work from home has become a new norm.

Speaking at the inaugural session of ASEAN-India Track 1.5 Dialogue on cyber issues, she said there is a greater dependence on digital payment platforms due to reduced cash handling. "Greater data sharing is happening online. Presence on social media has also increased. Digital technologies are playing a key role in keeping the supply chains open for an accelerated and sustainable economic recovery in the region," Das said.

"With our increasing dependence on digital technologies and ever-increasing footprint in the cyber space, there is an enhanced need to formulate and implement measures for securing our cyber domain from the malicious actors," she said. A recent assessment report of the COVID-19 cyber crime impact on Asia and the South Pacific region by INTERPOL shows that the major cyber security trends include COVID-19 related frauds, phishing campaigns and online sale of fake medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPEs), she said.

The rapidly increasing threats to safe and secure cyberspace in the COVID and post-COVID era, make ASEAN-India Cyber Cooperation imminent, she said. Das cited a World Economic Forum report, to state that one of the biggest concerns during the pandemic is the increase in cyber attacks and data fraud. "With the increased online presence due to lockdowns and work from home, radical elements are using social media platforms to disseminate misinformation through hate speech, fake news and doctored videos. They seek to particularly target vulnerable individuals," she said.

"The cyber space is border-less and, therefore, our efforts to harness this shared space should also be unfettered by national boundaries and be based on regional and global cooperation," Das said. Underlining that India emphasises that the core values of liberty, freedom of expression and rule of law, apply to cyber space as well, she said it is in common interest to maintain peaceful, secure and resilient cyber space. "We want countries to find a common ground on cyber norms, which encourage international cooperation toward security, while fostering equitable access to cyber space," the senior MEA official said.

Increased dependence on digital technologies has created both pressures and opportunities for creative policy solutions and regional collaboration to foster a secure, resilient and equitable cyberspace, she asserted. There is a need to align and synergise individual efforts, she said pointing to India's Centres of Excellence in Software Development and Training (CESDTs) being established in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam with an aim to enhance digital cooperation. India is also funding Child Online Risks Awareness Campaign' and 'Building Capacity on Digital Public Services Implementation and Cyber Security for Government Agencies' as Quick Impact Projects in Cambodia in 2020, she said. "We would be happy to offer similar projects to other ASEAN partners as well," Das said.


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