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Namrata Biji Ahuja
Namrata Biji Ahuja

DIGITAL INDIA

Why govt steps to tackle online frauds are inadequate

cyber-attack Cyber security experts feel that the government is taking small steps when strides are required in this area at this juncture

Cyber experts feel India still unprepared to deal with digital threats

India’s cyber challenges have grown multifold with the government's push for digital money post demonitisation, but the systems are ill-equipped to tackle it. Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday chaired a high level meeting to discuss concerns of securing payment gateways like PayTM and E-Wallet realising a huge spike in digital payments in the country. The needs to have a mechanism to deal with cyber attacks and data breaches among the many threats to digital transactions dominated the discussions.

But clearly the cyber experts are not impressed. Cyber security expert Pawan Duggal said that the government is taking small steps when strides are required in this area at this juncture. “All  these measures are incomplete since India lacks a dedicated law on cyber security.  Today, we are thoroughly unprepared to deal with digital threats in cyber world. The Information Technology Act, 2000 is not adequate to deal with cyber security. Also, sharing of data with government agencies needs to be done with due care as the nation anxiously awaits its new data protection legislation,” he said .

In the meeting attended by representatives of MEITY, RBI and law enforcement agencies, along with representatives of relevant states, Singh did a stock taking of various steps being taken to stem the threat, with special emphasis on phone frauds. A need was felt to keep an eye on slush funds in E-Wallets even as stake holders raised concern over data access from global servers continuing to remain a key issue in keeping a watch over payments and subsequent use of financial gateways.

Prashant Mali, a cyber law expert in Mumbai said that digital wallets usage has increased but there is no mandatory protection of insurance against online frauds and money loss. “Rural e-wallet users are losing money and have no recourse or grievances handling mechanism. I had proposed to the government that there should be a menu option for Online Dispute Resolution where customers can raise issues and it gets settled in a time bound manner,” he said. Mali said there is an urgent need to have a digital wallet regulator.

For now, the government has decided to undertake a big data analysis by involving IIT Delhi experts for identification of perpetrators of phone frauds to prevent duplication across e-wallets.  

The government has also said that additional alerts will be sent to customers from banks or e-wallet companies, as part of customer alert mechanism. Names of beneficiaries of any financial transaction wherever necessary will be required for better traceability and crosschecking on the part of the victim. Thirdly, publishing online statistics depicting the specific incidents, frauds against e-wallet companies and banks along with details of investigation will enable customers to make an informed choice before subscribing to e-wallet services.

The government is also exploring the legal aspects of creating a Meta data Archival  by way of sharing of data among different government and private agencies. Meta data archival refers to archiving of meta data which helps in identifying persons and nature of transactions, explained Duggal.

Home ministry officials said that with digital payments spreading to the farthest corners of the country, a need is also being felt to create a uniform monitoring and law enforcement mechanism to handle the threats in a timely and effective manner. However , the discussions are still in the nascent stage. Meanwhile the state that impressed the home minister most was Jharkhand which he felt was doing a good job to crackdown on the perpetrators of phone frauds bringing a fall in the instances of such crimes. But definitely more examples are needed.

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