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Growing Internet base in India and Cybersecurity Challenges | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

India has experienced a remarkable growth in internet usage over the past decade. We have in our country world’s second largest internet
users base. A joint report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a not-for-profit industry body and Kantar, a London based market
data analytics fi rm revealed that in 2022, the number of internet users in India was approximately 759 million, representing a penetration rate of around 52%. While this is a substantial fi gure, there is still considerable room for growth, considering India’s large population.The total number of Indians accessing the internet at least once a month is expected to grow to 900 million by 2025, as per the report.In comparison to the previous year, urban areas witnessed only 6% growth in internet usage,while rural India witnessed 14% growth rate. It is assessed that by 2025, almost 56% of internet users will be from rural areas in India. Internet inclusivity and the economic divide are closely linked, as
access to the internet can signifi cantly impact economic opportunities and disparities and vice versa.
Bihar for instance has only 32% of its population accessing internet while more than 70% of Goans have access to internet. Interestingly, the gender
divide with regards to internet inclusivity is narrowing in India. Trends suggest that by 2025, 65% of all new internet users will be women.
There are several reasons which have contributed to this phenomenal growth in internet usage in a developing country like India.
Mobile Internet: Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, have been instrumental in driving internet adoption in India. With affordable smartphones and affordable data plans, mobile internet has become the primary means of accessing the internet for many Indians. Mobile internet users constitute a substantial portion of the overall internet user base in India.
Rural Internet Adoption: While urban areas have seen signifi cant internet penetration, there has been a notable increase in internet adoption in rural areas as well. Government initiatives such as BharatNet, aimed at providing broadband connectivity to rural areas, have played a crucial role
in expanding internet access in remote regions.
Social Media Usage: Social media platforms have gained immense popularity in India. Platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter
have a large user base in the country. These platforms are not only used for social networking but also serve as sources of news, entertainment, and
communication for many Indians.

E-Commerce Growth: The rise of the internet has also spurred the growth of e-commerce in India.Online shopping platforms like Flipkart, Amazon,
and Paytm Mall have gained widespread popularity, offering a wide range of products and services. The convenience and accessibility of online shopping have attracted a growing number of consumers in India.

Digital Payments: The adoption of digital payment methods has increased signifi cantly in India. Mobile wallets like Paytm, Google Pay, PhonePe,
and digital payment systems like Unifi ed Payments Interface (UPI) have facilitated seamless and secure transactions. Government initiatives like demonetization and the promotion of digital payments have contributed to this shift.

Regional Language Content: The internet has also seen a surge in regional language content in India. With the majority of the population being
non-English speakers, the availability of content in regional languages has played a crucial role in enhancing internet usage and accessibility across
different regions of the country.

Internet usage in India is expected to continue growing rapidly as more people gain access to affordable smartphones and data plans. The government and private sector are actively working on initiatives to bridge the digital divide and improve internet connectivity in underserved areas.
Internet, like all technologies, is a double-edgedweapon. While it brings numerous benefi ts and opportunities, it also poses various challenges and
risks like social media addiction, breach of privacy,propagation of false and mischievous narratives through fake news, cyber-terrorism and so forth.
The internet has given rise to various cyber threats,including hacking, data breaches, identity theft,and malware attacks. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in digital systems, compromising privacy, and causing fi nancial and personal harm.India faces several challenges in the fi eld of cybersecurity.

Some prominent challenges include:India has witnessed a signifi cant increase in cyber threats such as hacking, data breaches, ransomware attacks,
cyber bullying, and phishing scams. The growing reliance on digital infrastructure and the rapid expansion of the internet user base have made India
an attractive target for cybercriminals.
TeamLease, a human resource fi rm in a study discovered that in the fi rst quarter of year 2023, Indian organisations witnessed more than 2000 cyberattacks per week, marking a steep rise by 18% in comparison to the corresponding period last year. Curiously, Indian health industry is the prime target for cybercriminals, witnessing 7.7% of total number of attacks. There are several reasons behind growing concern for India on cybersecurity front which are:

Limited Cybersecurity Awareness: A large section of the Indian population, including individuals and organizations, lacks adequate awareness
and understanding of cybersecurity best practices.This knowledge gap leaves them vulnerable to cyber threats and makes it easier for attackers to exploit their systems and networks.

Cybercrime and Financial Losses: Cybercrime has become a lucrative business in India, leading to substantial fi nancial losses for individuals, businesses, and the government. Incidents of online fraud, identity theft, and fi nancial scams are on the rise, impacting the economy and eroding public trust in online transactions.

Inadequate Legal Framework: India’s legal framework related to cybersecurity is still evolving and faces challenges in keeping pace with rapidly
evolving cyber threats. There is a need for comprehensive and up-to-date legislation that addresses emerging cybercrime trends and provides a robust legal framework for prosecution and deterrence.

Shortage of Skilled Professionals: There is a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals in India. The demand for cybersecurity experts far
exceeds the supply, creating a talent gap. This shortage makes it diffi cult for organizations to build and maintain robust cybersecurity defences and respond effectively to cyber incidents.

Critical Infrastructure Vulnerabilities: India’s critical infrastructure, including power grids, transportation systems, and fi nancial networks, is
increasingly connected to the internet, making it susceptible to cyber-attacks. A successful attack on critical infrastructure could have severe consequences for national security and the economy.

International Cyber Threats: India faces cyber threats from both state-sponsored and non-state actors operating from other countries. Cross-border cyberattacks pose challenges in terms of attribution, coordination with international agencies, and diplomatic efforts to address such threats effectively.

Data Protection and Privacy: With the increasing digitization of personal and sensitive data, data protection and privacy have become signifi cant
concerns. India has recently introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, aiming to strengthen data protection regulations. However, implementing
and enforcing these regulations effectively remains a challenge.
India with second largest internet user base, is currently facing a startling skill gap in the cybersecurity domain.The demand-supply gap in India
stands at 30%. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including enhancing cybersecurity awareness, investing in skill development and capacity building, strengthening legal frameworks, promoting public-private partnerships,
and fostering international cooperation in combating cyber threats.

(The Author is a student at JPIS. He can be followed on twitter (@arssh_kumar)


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