Data Security in the Digital Domain Must be of Utmost Importance!

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  • The global community is moving ahead with digitalization endeavors at a breakneck speed in line with the fast-changing times. Every government across the globe has undertaken digitalization as the most important governance architecture to pass on the benefits of modern technology. The smooth flow of information in real-time on smartphones has simply revolutionized the way people around the world access whatever they wish to comprehend. Even the social welfare services of the government concerned utilize the huge reach and ease of digital platforms to pass on the benefits. The pandemic-induced restrictions ensured that the digital mediums received enough fillip to assume a ubiquitous presence. No one is complaining about the advantages.

PC: OpenGov Asia

  • However, the growing concern vis-à-vis data security breaches being reported frequently must be a worrying factor for the government as well as the citizens. Cybercriminals are always on the prowl and there are enough gullible citizens who have fallen prey to the former while losing out on their hard-earned money. Disconcertingly, recently reported healthcare data taken out of ICMR points to gaps in digital architecture and the risk of wide exemptions for governments. Last month, there was a server breach in ICMR that led to unauthorized access to the personal information of about 81 crore Indians who had taken Covid vaccines. The criminal act was followed by an attempt to auction the data on the dark web by providing sample files.
  • This is the third time that healthcare system servers have been breached. GOI informed Parliament that there was a leak of CoWIN data in June that was followed by an FIR and inputs from CERT-In for an investigation. Before that, there was a ransomware attack at AIIMS, Delhi. Some experts opine that the ICMR breach is also a ransomware attack. GOI’s position on this breach is unclear yet. The repeated breaches of healthcare data are indicative of a challenge faced by digital architecture. Health data is highly sensitive and often retrieval is triggered by emergencies. Consequently, it’s been a key target globally for ransomware and subsequent extortion. In India, healthcare data and provision of services are amid a shift to a digital mode of access and use, being led by GOI.

PC: eHealth Magazine

  • Its Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) is an online platform that aims to link over 5 million healthcare professionals and 1.2 million healthcare facilities with patients. ABDM works on the principle of federated architecture, which means that information flows between all stakeholders in the healthcare universe but doesn’t get centrally stored. This is the basic approach underlying India’s digital public goods in other areas too. ABDM provides benefits that come with scale and interoperability. On the flip side, the risks of a data breach can be magnified. Data protection law provides sweeping exemptions to the government. This very likely influences the approach to cybersecurity. The need of the hour is to have stricter oversight of security.