Data security: India's standing calls for robust systems after GST rollout

Jul 27, 2017

India ranks 23rd among 165 countries on Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), released by International Telecommunication Union (ITU)—telecommunications agency of the United Nations (UN). The body says greater effort is needed in such a critical area. The GCI measures factors like organizational, technical and legal, and international cooperation. Moreover, India’s biggest data breach was reported recently in which data of 100 million customers got compromised. Leaked information included customer details like names, date of activation, phone numbers, emails. At times, the Aadhaar or Unique Identification Number was also leaked.

Plus, there have been reports of personal details getting published online. The developments have led to calls for adoption of laws to protect citizens. As India goes for digitalization, the government has to do its duty of protecting citizens. Initiatives such as demonetization, GST, and cashless economy will fall if there is no data security system.

Mind-boggling scale of GST implementation

Sensitive details are loaded on the GST Network besides personal details. India has 50 million SMEs and 3100 startups. GSTN will produce 5 billion invoices in a month. The data seems to be at risk if we look at the level of data security in India. Data crash, hacking, and cyber crime are possibilities. The system needs stability and backup.

Why is GSTN data sensitive for businesses and enterprises?

Data security is important for everyone, particularly enterprises. Leakage of data can lead to financial loss. For example, if invoicing detail get disclosed, the outcome can be adverse for enterprises, since invoice includes item cost. If competitor knows it, it can be setback for businesses.

Companies in European Union (EU) have stringent data protection standards. In comparison, Indian organizations don’t follow same standards/practices. This raises questions about accountability and security. Looking at the state of affairs, there is little likelihood to believe sensitive information will not get leaked. Regular reports of data breaches from private bodies as well as government are not reassuring at all. Departments as well as ministries have been found to be lackadaisical and apathetic as far as data and its security is concerned. This has resulted in leakage of names, numbers, addresses, bank account numbers and details, etc.

Worrisome data security standards in India’s Information Technology (IT) Security Systems

Though Indian government is pushing digital governance and cashless economy, there is little being done on account of data protection. Protection of official, private, and classified data has to be of utmost and paramount importance for an establishment. The Indian government needs to consider digital risks as high priority and effective steps must be taken to restore people’s faith in our system. Image of a Digital India gets tarnished when common man is inundated with reports of data breaches, debit card forgeries, and cyber attacks.

Indian government must view digital risks and strengthen data security for GST network or GSTN. Data breaches and cyber attacks are not good for a robust image of a Digital India.

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