If you have to paint the story of India over the past couple of years, reforms are surely going to come about with flying colors. Perhaps, reforms that have digital technologies deep-rooted within them. For us, as Indians, the yesteryears have marked a transition from feature phones to smartphones, from cash to digital payments, from TV broadcasts to on-the-go entertainment, and in fact, even from physical learning classes to the e-learning ones.
Every individual transition has added considerable value to our day-to-day lifestyles, thereby making us more efficient and productive as a nation. A wide variety of reforms have also been seen in the field of education including the formation of 'Institutes of Eminence', research fellowships, more IITs and IIMs across India, and so on. However, there is a missing piece in the block.
Cybersecurity: The Need to Secure India's Mounting Digital Frontier!
According to the latest figures available (iCUBE 2018 report), there were more than 566 million internet users in India by the end of December 2018 - registering a whopping growth rate of 18 percent during the year. It is estimated that this figure will rise to 627 million by December 2019. Out of the current user base, 493 million Indians are regular internet users with 293 million dwellings in urban India and 200 million living across rural geographies. It needs to be specifically noted that 97 percent use a mobile phone as one of the devices to access the internet.
It goes without saying that a majority of this growing crowd of netizens comprises first-time internet users. So, they are vulnerable to even the most basic forms of cyber attacks including email phishing, social engineering attacks, and so on. This is when even the people familiar with the internet and digital technologies are not aware of the wide-ranging perils that are inherent to the digital infrastructure. By 2021, a report by Cybersecurity Ventures suggests that the global economy will experience losses worth $6 trillion due to cybercrimes and exploits. This is because of the burgeoning digital infrastructure and the rapid adoption of embryonic technologies without adequate fail-safes. There is a dire need for cybersecurity professionals globally to address this problem.
In India itself, there is a need of around 3 million cybersecurity professionals according to an IBM report. However, the supply of professionals is well within 1,00,000. This fact stresses the need to make cybersecurity a part of our curriculum, especially considering the fast-paced tech adoption throughout the nation. In this context, we can perhaps take some inspiration from western educational institutes.
How Can We Learn from the Western Cybersecurity Curriculum?
Sensing the need of the hour, a number of prominent educational institutes all over the globe are making cybersecurity an integral part of their curriculum. Not just this, they are also ensuring that they leave no stone unturned to train their students. They are adopting avant-garde methodologies to train their students and make them fit for the job market.
For instance, Regent University (US) has developed a world-class facility to extend hands-on training to its students. The university banks on training via simulation through Cyber Range, or a software suite that imitates real-time attack scenarios and security breaches. It is currently serving as a training center for everyone from local businesses and governments to military organizations and helping them meet the ultramodern data protection needs. The training facility features executive management workshops, in-demand commercial cybersecurity certifications, and a large-scale, live-fire, cyber simulation platform. Likewise, Metropolitan State University and the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence have also collaborated on similar lines to launch MN Cyber Range. MN Cyber Range envisions to empower cyber defense teams with both knowledge and experience to protect critical information, systems, and operations.
"Advanced simulated training methodologies, if deployed amongst Indian educational institutes, can bring about dramatic changes on multiple levels"
Advanced simulated training methodologies, if deployed amongst Indian educational institutes, can bring about dramatic changes on multiple levels. Primarily, it will help address the skill shortage that the nation's cybersecurity industry is currently facing. Secondly, the approach will improve the job scenario and help in battling the unemployment rate in the country. Thirdly, it will catalyze research and development around cybersecurity and can, perhaps, make our nation the hub of the global cybersecurity market. This can prove to be highly beneficial considering the fact that the digital market is booming at a massive scale on an international level. Lastly, it will add to the market productivity since college graduates will step into the job market fully prepared for the cybersecurity challenges - making the time and capital invested in their training after recruitment a thing of the past.
India is a nation that has the largest pool of global youth. If the nation takes the right steps with a forward-looking approach, it will not only be skilling its youth with ultramodern abilities that are in demand, it will simultaneously make our nation an epicenter of global cybersecurity developments. The dividends are considerably high and all of it can happen just with a simple reform in education.
By Rakesh Kharwal, Managing Director - India/South Asia & ASEAN, Cyberbit
As a former country manager for IBM security software, Rakesh Kharwal has got more than a decade of expertise working in the cybersecurity domain. He has also worked for various other IT giants including Microsoft.