National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) Wants Reliance Jio Infocomm To Share Potential Cyber Security Threats On India’s Telecom Networks

National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) Wants Reliance Jio Infocomm To Share Potential Cyber Security Threats On India’s Telecom NetworksGovernments around the world are stressing upon stringent cyber security breach disclosures norms but telecom companies are opposing the same on cost and other burdensome regulatory reasons. Nevertheless the governments across the globe are working in the direction of forcing the telecom companies to disclose the cyber security breaches.

There is no universally acceptable international cyber security treaty (PDF) and countries across the globe have adopted a national approach toward cyber security. However, the way sophisticated malware are developed by nations as a cyber warfare and cyber espionage weapon, this national approach is of little help and significance.

India has also decided to formulate a cyber security breach disclosure norm in the past. However, keeping in mind the slow pace at which Indian government works in the field of cyber security, this may take few more years before this much required security practice is actually implemented in India.  The cyber security trends in India 2013 (PDF) have underlined many crucial cyber security lapses of India.

Indian government has already formulated the cyber security policy of India that intends to cover some of the crucial cyber security aspects of the nation. However, the cyber security policy has not been implemented till now and it may take few more years before some action can be expected in this regard from Indian government.

Indian government has also tried to spread cyber security awareness in India. It has mandated that a cyber security brochure must be essentially supplied along with hardware to spread cyber security awareness among Indian consumers. However, telecom and hardware vendors are not happy with this direction and they are postponing this requirement for one reason or other.

Meanwhile, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has urged the Reliance Jio Infocomm to become part of an industry platform which shares information with the government on potential cyber security threats to the country’s telecom networks. The NSCS says “it is important to involve Reliance Jio in sharing information on potential cyber threats, trends and incidents to enable the government to take suitable counter measures”.

The matter was recently discussed at an internal meeting of the Joint Working Group on cyber security chaired by NSCS secretary and Deputy National Security Advisor Nehchal Sandhu. The NSCS is the apex agency looking into India’s political, economic, energy and strategic security concerns and works closely with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

India’s security establishment wants regular leads on potential cyber security threats from Reliance Jio as it is the sole holder of a pan-India 4G permit and is slated to roll out high-speed broadband services later this year on the long term evolution (LTE) technology standard. Last month, Jio also entered the voice segment by buying 1800 MHz band spectrum in 14 regions for nearly Rs 11,000 crore as a precursor to launching 4G services on the frequency band.

In the meeting, the telecom department’s security chief Ram Narain said that Jio is mandated by license conditions (PDF) to share information on potential cyber threats. Besides, the national telecom security policy of India 2014 may impose more stringent obligations than the licence conditions. As the foreign telecom companies are facing the heat of cyber security and telecom security in India, this is a good opportunity for Indian telecom companies to extend their commercial base in India. India has been planning to undergo technological upgrade of border broadcast infrastructure due to Chinese broadcasts. The Telecom Commission Cellular Loop’s Proposal would also strengthen mobile based surveillance on national security grounds in India.

Clearly, the intentions to ensure critical infrastructure protection in India (PDF) are taking a concrete shape. The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) has been assigned the task of protecting the critical infrastructure of India.

As Reliance Jio is still not part of any of the telecom industry bodies like the GSM’s Cellular Operators Association of India or the CDMA’s Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (Auspi) who have both supported creation of the Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (ISAC), the agency that will collate all classified industry feedback on potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities in telecom networks across technology platforms.

The latest developments come at a time when the telecom department is framing testing standards for telecom gear to shield networks from potential cyber attacks. India is also readying a cyber security framework, a cyber security policy and a National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) that will monitor metadata on cyber traffic flows.