Rethinking Cybersecurity Education In Indian Business Ecosystem

The need for cybersecurity professionals equipped with the expertise to not only mitigate but also prevent cyber-attacks has become critical now.

Technological advancements are disrupting the world faster than we can think. Progress in the right direction, however, is being accompanied by developments in certain undesirable domains as well. While digital integration is undoubtedly revolutionizing various industries for the better, miscreants are also leveraging the power of technology to notch up the scope and sophistication of threat vectors in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. 

Against this backdrop, the need for cybersecurity professionals equipped with the expertise to not only mitigate but also prevent cyber-attacks has become critical now more than ever before. Despite the urgency, the IT security-readiness of individuals, enterprises, and nations remains woefully low. The implications of this are as far-reaching as they are severe. As per a study by Cybersecurity ventures, a lack of skilled IT security professionals will result in the global economy to annually shed  $6 trillion by 2021.  

For an up-and-coming digital-first economy such as India, the ramifications of inadequate cyber-security are even graver. A PwC study estimated that the instances of cyber-attacks sustained by Indian enterprises surged by a whopping 117 per cent in 2019 as compared to the preceding year. On the other hand, according to the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), the Indian economy suffers a loss to the tune of Rs 4,552 on account of each instance of a data breach. The DSCI report further clinches the severity of these figures by citing India as the second-most targeted country by cyber-miscreants between 2016 and 2018. 

This naturally begs the question: what can be done to address and resolve this most pressing issue?

IBM estimated that India requires at least 3 million cybersecurity professionals to create a robust IT security infrastructure within the country and fend off cyber-attacks that continue to grow in frequency and sophistication. However, the country’s cybersecurity workforce strength is currently less than 0.1 million. Hence, what we need the most today are focused learning and development measures across all sectors in the country to enable the creation of highly skilled professionals who are well-versed in technology. 

Cybersecurity education: towards a safe and secure future

Both public and private players are increasingly recognizing the need for empowering the Indian IT industry with top-notch skills in emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning. Doing so will enable individuals to assume various high-value, high-profile job roles in the tech-intensive sectors, many of which continue to remain vacant due to talent shortage. Steps in this direction will achieve two things at once. On the one hand, it will boost economic growth by enhancing the country’s ability to capitalize on its massive workforce strength in the booming IT sector. On the other, it will ensure superior cybersecurity across the country. 

While new-age organizations are increasingly boarding the up-skilling/re-skilling bandwagon, to achieve the aforementioned vision training needs to start from an even earlier stage – from the level of schools and colleges. In sync with this objective, Budget 2020 was an optimistic reflection of the political will aimed at bolstering the country’s bourgeoning cybersecurity segment by encouraging and facilitating greater access to skill development resources.  

Under the banner of the ‘Skill India’ campaign, for instance, the Government displayed both cognizance and interest in promoting the proactive application of theoretical knowledge in emerging technologies including data analytics, IoT, AI and cybersecurity. As such, the Government has allocated Rs 99,300 crore to the education sector, of which Rs 3,000 crore is earmarked for skill development. Within this setup, the Government should seek to integrate simulation technologies such as cyber range to accelerate the development towards building India’s cybersecurity capabilities while providing better internship and job opportunities to fresh engineers. This will train our budding professionals in realistic environments with the in-house tools and infrastructure of a typical organization, thus will impart experiential learning they develop with regular practice. 

The decision to create 150 institutes focused on imparting higher education aligned with global best practices can also be an opportunity for delivering best-in-class cybersecurity training to students as a part of their apprenticeship courses. Another major announcement made in Budget 2020 focussed on the launch of a national university for forensic science and cyber forensics. This is another welcome step towards advancing the country down the path of robust cybersecurity. Considering such developments, that India will become a protected digital-first society that is conducive to technological innovation is no longer a matter of possibility, but merely that of time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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