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A robust cyber security policy is imperative

A robust cyber security policy is imperative
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A robust cyber security policy is imperative 

Highlights

Twitter has confirmed that an account for the personal website of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hacked. The account, with over 2.5 million followers, is the official Twitter handle for Modi's personal website

Twitter has confirmed that an account for the personal website of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hacked. The account, with over 2.5 million followers, is the official Twitter handle for Modi's personal website. His personal Twitter account, which was unaffected by this incident, has more than 61m followers. Twitter said it was aware of the activity and had taken steps to secure the compromised account.

The tweets, which have since been taken down, asked the followers to donate to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund through cryptocurrency. Four tweets were posted from the hacked account @narendramodiin before it was secured. "I appeal to you all to donate generously to PM National Relief Fund for COVID-19, Now India begin with cryptocurrency, Kindly donate eth to - Official Tweet of PM Modi" was the first tweet at 3:09 am _Indian Standard Time (IST).

"I appeal to you all to donate generously to PM National Relief Fund for COVID-19, Now India begin with cryptocurrency, Kindly Donate Bitcoin to " was the second tweet, at 3:11 am IST.

The third tweet, at 3:14 am, had the same content as the second but the Bitcoin address was different. The final tweet, at 3:16 am, was a sign off by the hacker(s): "Yes this account is hacked by John Wick (hckindia@tutanota.com), We have not hacked Paytm Mall". This is rather a strange appeal. Whoever wanted to make money - of that is the motive, let us say - would surely not demand cryptocurrency.

It's not clear how much amount, if any, was donated to the cryptocurrency addresses shared by the hacker. It's also not clear at what time was the account secured and through what means.

It's likely that the hacker had access to the account for more time than he (or she or they) used for messaging. No official statement has been made by the Prime Minister's office. On August 15, in his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister announced that India would get a new, 'robust' cyber security policy soon.

As the hacking of his own Twitter account shows, India can no longer ignore the cyberspace. The Internet Crime Report for 2019, released by the Internet Crime Complaint Centre of the FBI, has revealed that India stands third in the world among top 20 countries that are victims of internet crimes.

Modi in his speech said that his government was aware of the threats emanating from cyber space and how they had the potential to impact India's society, economy and development. "Cyber security is a very important aspect, which cannot be ignored. The government is alert on this and is working on a new, robust policy," he added.

The imperative of this move is to be understood from the decision of the government to connect 1.5 lakh gram panchayats through optical fibre network. Cybercrime would only increase once this happens.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), cybercrimes in India almost doubled in 2017 from the previous year. In 2016, there were 12,317 cases reported, which spiked to 21,796 cases in 2017. In 2018, the number further rose to 27,248 cases. The hacking of the Prime Minister's account will expedite the adoption of the new cyber policy.

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