Saturday, January 8, 2011

E-Surveillance Is Not A Substitute For Cyber Skills

I personally believe that our Home Minister Mr. P Chidambaram is a learned and honest person. However, he is also gullible. Whether it is multinational companies, foreign governments, law enforcement agencies, etc all of them are selling their “stale and failed ideas” to Mr. Chidambaram and he is willingly accepting the same with a generous heart.

It seems many people and companies have realised that India is a very good market when it comes to security and cyber security related products and services. However, what would Indian government do with cyber security products if it cannot use the same?

If the Home Ministry or Indian government is even little bit aware how concepts like cyber security and cyber forensics work, it must be aware of free and open source software (FOSS) and open source hardware.

The cost is just one of the factors. The real issue is to manage the affairs of Home Ministry in a constitutionally sound manner. Home Ministry has been mandating various acts or omissions that openly go against the spirit of Indian Constitution.

For instance, India has no constitutionally valid phone tapping law and phones are tapped in India on the basis of unconstitutional colonial laws.

Similarly, privacy laws and data protection laws have been deliberately kept out of the loop of legislative business of parliament of India to accommodate illegal phone tappings and e-surveillance. Even projects like Aadhar and authorities like UIDAI are working on this principle.

Encryption standards that are essential for strong cyber security and risk free e-commerce have been deliberately constrained to ridiculous levels. Companies like Blackberry, Skype, Google, etc have been asked for to surrender encryption keys so that law enforcement and intelligence agencies may snoop at will.

I think the real problem is that neither our executive/parliament/judiciary nor our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are aware of technical issues like cyber law, cyber security and cyber forensics. As an escape route they have decided to use e-surveillance as a substitute to cyber capabilities.

Mr. Chidambaram, e-surveillance is not the substitute for cyber security and cyber forensics capabilities. You must give suitable and practical training to your law enforcement and intelligence agencies in cyber law, cyber security and cyber forensics so that they can solve cases and save millions of precious lives in real time.

National security, and above that every single life, is very important but there must be checks and balances while exercising it. National security should not be used as a fa├žade to violate civil liberties in India, which unfortunately is presently happening in India.