Theft of secured data and leakage of sensitive information from key defence establishments have spurred the Indian government to tighten cyber security.
To ensure that vital information stored in its computers does not fall into wrong hands, the government has directed all ministries and departments to submit a quarterly report on cyber security to the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
The theft of hard drives from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) offices of the Scientific Analyses Group (SAG) and the Institute for System Studies and Analyses (ISSA) as well as the leakage in the War Room of the Naval Headquarters has led to the exercise, official sources said.
According to senior officials, a detailed set of guidelines has been issued to make government data secure and a cyber security officer appointed in each ministry under the new security regime.
"We will also conduct checks at random to see if the storage of critical data in computers is carried out properly and, more important, if it is in safe custody. The move is also to ensure there is no theft of classified information," a senior official told, not wanting to be identified.
A trained network administrator will strictly monitor the security of passwords, the use of flash drives and floppies for computer servers used for classified applications.
The implementation of this move will begin in October. The government already has in place a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) aimed at protecting from hackers the networks of defence forces, air and rail traffic and other vital security and economic establishments.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked government departments and the IT industry to work together to tighten cyber security laws. At a meeting to review the steps taken by the government and industry to tackle cyber crimes last year, he underlined the need to maintain high standards of quality, confidentiality and reliability in the business.
The theft of hard drives from the DRDO complex some years ago proved a major embarrassment for the scientific establishment. In the War Room leak, cases were filed against military officers including a former wing commander of the air force, two ex-naval commanders and a former naval captain in June this year.
Again in June, computer parts went missing from the headquarters of the Integrated Defence Services (IDS) in New Delhi, forcing the government to order a court of inquiry into the incident.
The government action came after the theft of 13 computer printer cartridges worth Rs 17,000 from the store room of the well-protected military installation in the heart of the capital.
While these measures will indeed make it more difficult to pilfer information and raise the stakes for those attempting to subvert the system, they are by no means sufficient, say officials.
"There can be no let-up in vigilance as ultimately, in ensuring cyber and digital security, it is the human element that is the weak link," said the intelligence official.
Whether it is the written-down password lying around carelessly or a corrupt security guard, a small chink can have serious consequences, he said.