Cyber security: Identifying threats and fortifying networks in developing countries

Cyber security: Identifying threats and fortifying networks in developing countriesThreat of attacks on the cyberspace cannot be fathomed without accepting the fact that the internet, by definition, is an entity without any borders. What this implies is that cyberspace of a particular country or region cannot be excluded from the global network, which affects the latter and vice-versa.

Cyberspace’s growth directly proportional to cyber crime

Expansion of the cyberspace, globally, has been exponential which, in turn, has raised questions about how secure this international network is. However, it is this ability of the internet to grow and expand that also makes it one of the most important inventions of the last century. So, in a way, this openness is a double-edged sword. What makes the internet brilliant is also what causes online espionage, web terrorism, cyber warfare and cyber crime. In developing nations and emerging markets, the onus for security might even be greater as these are regions where the number of internet users is rapidly increasing along with those who are using smartphones and mobile devices.

Rapid increase of Internet users in India

In India, about 18 percent out of the 1.3 billion people are said to have internet access. While this might seem low when placed against US’s 87.4%, but since India has a huge population, this percentage accounts for roughly 354 million people. Interestingly, only 3.95% of the total population had internet access in 2007. This drastic rise over an eight-year period can largely be attributed to the expansion of the smartphone industry in India. Through mobile devices, around 159 million Indians browse the web.


One of the core concerns of cyber security in India is the vulnerability of information when it is accessed through mobile devices. Limiting internet access to these devices is not a solution since this rapidly expanding web-savvy populace is also dependent on ‘connectivity’ for social and economic reasons. Developing nations, where ‘growth’ is the omnipresent mantra, cannot afford to curb it in the name of ‘security’. The only solution is identifying the threats and fortifying the network using technology.

Cyber attacks against developing countries

Speaking of threats, Indian cyberspace, which recently saw cyber breaches, surged by a record 117%, did not enjoy a safe season in 2013-2014, when attacks peaked. That time period saw a 136% increase in cyber offenses against Government of India organizations and a 126% rise in offensives against financial institutions. According to a Norton report, offensive cyber acts such as spear-phishing and ransomware cost Indian people and companies around $4 billion.

Another developing country, Brazil, which is also one of the BRICS nations along with India, also had its share of cyber attacks. Interestingly, one of the biggest threats came from the NSA in the US. The American agency was accused of monitoring networks, emails and telephonic conversations of people involved with Petrobras, a Brazilian semi-government, semi-private energy corporation so that American rival companies had access to information regarding the specifics of the Brazilian company’s plans for expansion and/or future tenders.

The BRICS solution

Following such cyber threats, Brazil, as part of the BRICS collective, is trying to bypass US-based web services. Like most other Latin American nations, Brazil routes its internet traffic through Miami-based Network Access Point. This makes it very difficult for the country to keep its digital information safe from American agencies. The solution in this case is the BRICS cable, a 34,000 km long telecommunications cable connecting access points in Brazil, South Africa, India, China and ending in Russia. Not only will this bolster the internet security of developing nations like India, Brazil, South Africa and China, but it will also save them the huge costs of using hubs based in Europe and US.

Cyber warfare is real

One of the core challenges of cyber security with respect to developing nations lies in identifying foreign nation state aggressors that perpetuate such attacks. Stuxnet, a virus that disrupted Iran’s nuclear capabilities, was a joint US-Israel project. The NSA has also been accused of hacking into Chinese Telecom giant Huawei believing that doing so would reveal details of the Chinese military. China, on the other hand, has been accused of hacking into emails of Indian academicians who were known to be pro-Tibet. Indian security agencies also claim the foreign agents also accessed information related to Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), something that only China would be interested in.

All of these point to one fact – cyber warfare is here to stay. The global concerns related to cyber security, especially from the point of view of developing countries, need to be addressed immediately. Countries like India and China can also greatly benefit when these concerns are addressed as the solutions will definitely involved technical expertise and tools, something which these countries have in abundance.

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