Unprecedented growth in technology has blurred boundaries by transforming the way we work and how governments serve their citizens. Nowadays, our dependency on cyberspace has been growing exponentially with our constant adoption of digital services, tools, and applications. India is a digital giant in the making something that we can easily see with now nearly everyone accepting and using digital solutions in the world’s second-most populous country.

Concerns have been raised over digital security threat

In fact, the e-Filing of Income Tax Returns hit a record high, with 49.29 lakh ITRs filed just on 31st of August, 2019. This, by and large, reflects the mood of our nation when digital technology is brought into perspective.

However, concerns have been raised from time to time over security threat and vulnerability of the whole eco-system of India. The more India digitizes, there are apprehensions that cyber-crime will rise correspondingly.

Digital India requires strong focus on cybersecurity

Our ‘Digital India’ dream requires a strong focus on cybersecurity more than ever before, but how do we increase cyber proficiency? This can only be achieved if we start at the very early levels and work on educating our younger generation. These are five reasons why cybersecurity has become an imperative in our academics:

1. Lack of skilled workforce: At present, the world is staring at a massive skill shortage in the cybersecurity industry. Moreover, the constant integration of embryonic technologies (including cloud computing, IoT, and so on) in wide-ranging processes is gradually leaving the conventional cybersecurity skills redundant.

This is because of the increased threat surface due to such technologies. According to IBM, the current requirement of cybersecurity professionals is pegged at 3 million, whereas, the cybersecurity workforce is less than 0.1 million in India. And this is still the tip of the iceberg.

2. Lack of hands-on academic training: There is a lack of infrastructure in cybersecurity training in India. Many Indian institutes have launched courses in cybersecurity. But most of these courses are theoretical, based on presentations. These don’t expose candidates to practical real-world aspects of cybersecurity and the underlying dynamics – which could radically differ from one to another.

Universities like Regent University, Ariel University, University of Maine, Metropolitan State University, and others are already disrupting cyber education with hands-on courses that feature cyberattack simulation. The same can be picked up by Indian universities.

The Indian government, along with the top tier technical institutes, needs to improve the curriculum of such courses that comprise hands-on training using technologies such as cyber ranges.

3. Lucrative career opportunities: According to the 2011 Census, our youth (aged between 15 and 24 years) comprised one-fifth of India’s total population. They are projected to become one-third of the national population by 2020. Further, the age group of 20-24 years – which constitutes 40% of India’s labour force – currently has an unemployment rate of 32 percent.

Cybersecurity offers a promising avenue for them to create a magnificent career for themselves. Understanding this, young professionals are also looking towards the sector in a good light. The job portal Indeed has reported a 150% spike in search of cybersecurity roles from January 2017 to March 2018.

Regardless of the reasons for the increase in demand, the pressing problem is a shortage of people trained and capable enough to fill the growing number of cybersecurity roles. NASSCOM has further indicated that despite India having the largest IT talent pool, there is a clear lack of skilled cybersecurity professionals over here.

This has added to the need for experienced cybersecurity professionals, with companies willing to pay a salary of up to Rs. 4 crores to the top talent.

4. The number of security incidents increases due to digitisation: The Digital India initiative is bringing Indians under the umbrella of digital technologies. However, first-time users are vulnerable to wide-ranging cyber threats both at personal and organizational levels.

As per a report by PwC, Indian organizations have experienced 117% more incidents as compared to the previous year, increasing more than two times from 2,895 incidents to 6,284 incidents a year. This figure contrast the global growth of cyberattack which has increased by a mere 39% over the previous year.

Maybe it is because of this understanding that our Prime Minister has stressed on the need of cybersecurity saying,”I dream of a Digital India where cybersecurity becomes an integral part of our National Security”.

So, our digital dream is being supported by a majority of formal institutions and hence, creating a lot of opportunities in the sector.

5. Need to gear up for the Internet of Things (IoT) & critical infrastructures: The ecosystem of Internet-connected devices, operational tools, and critical infrastructures is poised to soar in the upcoming years. As IoT continues to expand, critical infrastructures such as power, oil and gas, water treatment systems, and transportation are vital for national survival.

Any interruption can put lives at risk. India, as a country, needs to invest in R&D and developing skills for IoT & OT Security as the repercussions can be hazardous for everything from businesses to government bodies and the ongoing digital adoption within the country.

This becomes critical as Digital India aims at transforming India into a digitally empowered society while the smart city concept aims at developing 100 smart cities in India.

These were the top five reasons why we must look forward to train professionals at their nascent stage as a student. Ultimately, the digital domain has all-embracing dynamics that require a targeted approach from different angles. Starting it with academics will perhaps prove to be pivotal for our fast-emerging nation and its digital infrastructure.

Authored by Rakesh Kharwal, Managing Director, India/South Asia & ASEAN, Cyberbit


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