MEA trains 500+ employees in cyber safety across 90 missions in Europe, Africa

Published on Feb 17, 2022 10:46 AM IST

The staff at India’s foreign missions are being trained to keep a close watch on phishing attempts and ensure critical data is secure

The external affairs ministry also conducts regular audits to assess how sensitive data centres in different missions can be protected. (Hindustan Times/ File photo)
The external affairs ministry also conducts regular audits to assess how sensitive data centres in different missions can be protected. (Hindustan Times/ File photo)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI: The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has trained more than 500 employees across 90 missions in Europe and Africa to ensure the personnel are equipped to deal with both malicious malware and targeted attacks, officials familiar with the matter told HT.

The ministry also conducts regular audits to assess how sensitive data centres in different missions can be protected.

“These audits were earlier conducted by visiting the site, but now we are focusing on training as due to Covid-19 we couldn’t visit the centres,” an official familiar with the matter said.

India is working on a cybersecurity policy by evaluating how the UK and Australia have structured theirs, and roll out a holistic structure wherein more verticals than just national security are covered. The policy is likely to encompass both internal and external threats, and the first meeting of cybersecurity coordinators from the two countries was held last week.

According to the aforementioned official, the staff is being trained to keep a close watch on phishing attempts and ensure critical data is secure.

“The initiative to train the government employees in our missions abroad is a very important and progressive step and in line with the government’s objective of protecting India’s national security from cyber-attacks and cyber espionage. As we all know, we are moving to a world where threats in the cyber domain are growing, and as our critical systems are connected to the internet, it is imperative to secure our connected systems, as well as ensuring that we have trained manpower that is prepared to respond to and neutralise potential cyber threats,” said Kazim Rizvi, the founder of Dialogue, a policy think tank that looks at cybersecurity issues.

The audits are, in keeping with protocol, also conducted virtually. “But these don’t really work, as if we open the system for us to assess, others may also be able to access it,” the official said.

Cyber safety, the official added, has become a basic sanitisation tool, for which the MEA is ramping up efforts to cover as many people as it can. “There are many levels of cyber safety, from safe passwords to avoiding links that may lead to hacks, that need to be implemented.”

The official stressed that the capability of India’s data centres abroad need to be evaluated. There is also a suggestion that mock drills be conducted to ensure the centres are well equipped to deal with any threats.

“Viruses, phishing and malware have the ability to take down a country’s critical infrastructure, and when it comes to our data centres abroad, it is important to ensure a high level of security, which can be achieved when we have well trained personnel. Moreover, the government is also working on a cyber security policy to respond to the emerging threats in the cyber domain, which will also be a step forward to protect India’s critical infrastructure,” Rizvi added.

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