Vickram’s View: InDepth with Nandkumar Saravade

September 9th, 2006 |
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The senior police officer, currently director, cybersecurity, at NASSCOM, India’s IT industry heavyweight association, talks about bringing about awareness on security issues to various stakeholders, including law enforcement, commerce and industry, users and foreign organisations outsourcing work into India.

I’ve known Nandkumar for some years now, after he joined a discussion group on legal issues in India. He was working in IIT Bombay, researching for a PhD on cybersecurity when we first met in person. He was offered a chance to head up NASSCOM’s cybersecurity, and took it after sussing it out discreetly on the list.

The industry association has reacted to some events that have drawn flak in recent years, concerns about legal safeguards and an effective enforcement environment to counter cybercrime. One or two incidents, especially the one involving an officer in eBay’s Indian operation, have been publicised widely.

Among the critics of the potential damage to India’s reputation as a place where business can be done legally and efficiently has been NASSCOM itself. However, aside from criticising, the association has moved to build bridges between industry and various other stakeholders in the security landscape.

As Saravade points out, awareness building up and down the echelons of the police force (at both national and provincial levels) is a constant exercise. Seminars and workshops for senior and junior police officers, encouragement to use IT-based tools for communication are ongoing. It is hard to say, frankly, how quickly we will see a lessening of the worry that heavy-handed police forces come and interfere with a perfectly legitimate business that happens to have been victimised itself, either by misuse of its services or by malicious attack.

Efforts are also on to increase awareness in the corporate sector, banking, trade and commerce and end-users. I suspect that areas of continuing concern will be schools (at least those ones that are slowly beginning to make computers commonly available for students) and homes. Widespread pirating of systems that often have even their rudimentary security compromised means that large numbers of computers can be abused on a large scale.

However, this hasn’t happened so far. Unlike some other countries that are prey to massive mounting of denial of service attacks on their own or anyone else’s public services or critical channels of communication from their deeply compromised home and office networked computers, India appears to be clean. While one of the biggest spammers in the world reputedly lives in Mumbai, the attacks he orchestrates are often managed through computers located in East European countries. And super critical viral attacks have left most of India surviving.

Tech-savvy computer users are beginning to understand the security implications of working with computers equipped with well-fenced core functions. Coupled with a FOSS wave (at least one state government has decided that in future only open source systems will be used and taught in schools), there does seem to be a heightening of perception about better ways of working in a net-savvy world.

That not many politicians are equally aware is a grim truth, but open access to network-based communication is an exceedingly critical factor in using ICT (information and communication technologies) to ease the path to social and economic development, empowering the disenfranchised.

As Alfredo Lopez recently blogged, the Internet “it grows like a movement. No matter what the commercial Internet does with its marketing, customer development and product releases — the great majority of which fails miserably — the Internet grows in one basic way: people who are experienced in it talk to others about it and help them become part of it. Think about your own experience in getting on the Internet; in most cases, I think, people will remember somebody they knew and trusted telling them what to do.

Like a movement or campaign, the Internet’s growth doesn’t just happen; it’s organized.”

Everyone’s words count.

About Vickram:

Vickram Crishna, a graduate of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta, has worked in and around the Indian technology sector for three decades, including ten years spent in mainstream media. His stint as deputy editor at the fortnightly Business India, industry’s reference point, witnessed the desktop PC in India in the mid-90s mature from its niche to the mainstay of India’s booming business sector. Meeting the global industry’s major movers and shakers, from Bill Gates to Eric Schmidt, complemented the galaxy of Indian IT majors with whom he often interacted.

He has now moved on to evangelize net-based communications for India’s rural sector, an opportunity for industry to serve a billion people across the subcontinent. He brings the Podtech audience, on launch of the India channel, his unique outlook and an easy familiarity with the complexities of technology and socio-economic development.

Vickram is based out of Mumbai.

About “Vickram’s View”:

Every week, “Vickram’s View” will deliver an in-depth conversation with a key industry expert, a roundup of what’s happening in IT , and a perspectives piece on how technology is impacting the developing world.

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