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Cyber Attacks! Is India willing to learn?

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on December 03, 2022 with No Comments

India’s premier healthcare institute the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, finally was able to restore  its servers and networks and had to sanitise the systems before the services could be restored. Services at the AIIMS remained affected for seven consecutive days.

AIIMS authorities had to deploy additional staff to run diagnostics, labs and OPD services at the national medical institute due to a suspected ransomware attack. data of around three-four crore patients could have been compromised due to the breach detected on November 23. There were reports, that there has been a ransom call too. However, the Dehli Police, issued a statement, saying “no ransom demand as being quoted by certain sections of the media has been brought to notice by AIIMS authorities”. At the same time, the India Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), Delhi Police and representatives of the ministry of home affairs are investigating the ransomware attack after a case of extortion and cyber terrorism was registered by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police on November 25. Hence, the statement of Delhi Police doesn’t hold good and there is more to this than meets the eye.

The AIIMS server has stored data of several VIPs, including former prime ministers, ministers, bureaucrats and judges, the breach can be serious. Hackers and criminal syndicates realised the dependence of medical institutes on digital systems to most favorablly manage the maneuver as well as store and handle large volumes of patient data, including their reports. This realization has made cyber attacks on medical institutes an order of the day, and this trend has been prevalent during the times of pandemic.

Derailing of the hospital’s functioning and loss of its e-records holding years of work by ransomware, the risk of hackers selling the encrypted files on the dark net or asking for ransom to decrypt them remains even now. Globally, cyberattacks against the healthcare industry rose by 95.35% in the first four months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.The pandemic has pushed the healthcare industry to relook at the ways it operates and then further optimize  digitally and move to the cloud. During the pandemic, tech majors like Cisco India, CrowdStrike, Cyware, and Sophos India flagged the risk of cyberattacks in the healthcare sector, affecting virtual healthcare, teleconsultations, telemedicine, wearable technology, and email.

Thus, the aspects of security and privacy issues have been compromised. In order to make the system more roboust most countries define the health and medical sector as critical information (CI) infrastructure.

The incident is a wake up call for any country and especially for India. India needs to push for the national cyber security strategy. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi had announced the same couple of years back, unfortunately the policy hasn’t moved anyway after that. This could have been the guiding document to monitor the preparedness of cyber readiness; and budget allocations could have been done to ensure that such important data is not compromised. The capacity enhancement for the National Critical Information Infrastructure Centre (NCIIPC) and CERTIn has to be undertaken to address the emerging sophisticated nature of threats and attacks and sectoral CERTs have to be set up for many areas including health. Once such measures are in place, international cooperation on countering cyber attacks can be accessed. Lessons could be drawn from the tools deployed by the UK to plug the loopholes in its National Health System after it was cyber-attacked earlier this year. But, is India willing to wake up?



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