India ranks among the worst in the world for cybersecurity

Be careful.
Be careful.
Image: Reuters/Kacper Pempel/Illustration
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India is among the least cyber-secure countries in the world.

It held the 15th position in a recent cybersecurity ranking of 60 nations by consumer tech review firm Comparitech. The number one rank was the least secure and 60 the most.

“That puts it (India) far below the average, about the same as China,” Paul Bischoff, editor of Comparitech, told Quartz.

Here’s a snapshot of the worst 20 nations for safety on the internet:

Over the last year itself, the country has seen a series of cyber crimes. For instance, in July last year, an ATM scam rocked Kolkata, wiping out over Rs20 lakh and affecting more than 75 people. Then, in August 2018, criminals were accused of making fraudulent bank transfers by stealing SIM card information.

In the same month, anonymous hackers launched a malware attack to siphon off nearly $13.5 million (Rs96 crore) from the Pune-based Cosmos Bank, offloading it in a Hong Kong-based firm’s account. The world’s biggest biometric ID programme, Aadhaar, apparently fell prey to multiple breaches, too.

Too crowded

The score in the ranking was based on seven criteria: percentage of mobiles infected with malware, share of computers infected with malware, number of financial malware attacks, percentage of telnet attacks—the technique used by cybercriminals to get people to download a variety of malware types—percentage of attacks by cryptominers, the best-prepared countries for cyber attacks and the countries with the most up-to-date legislation.

“The main factors contributing to India’s lack of cybersecurity are a high percentage of both mobile and desktop devices infected with malware,” Bischoff said.

With over a quarter of phones affected, India was among the top 10 worst countries for percentage of mobiles infected with malware—software designed to gain unauthorised access to, destroy, or disrupt a device’s system. The rise of cheap smartphones and low awareness are likely fueling this phenomenon.

Desktops didn’t fare much better, with 22% of Indian users facing cybersecurity threats on the bigger device, too. India was the 11th-worst country on the list. In February 2017, the government launched free anti-malware tools but clearly, judging by India’s poor performance, their adoption is still lagging.

Also, a fairly high percentage of Telnet attacks against Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices originate from India, Bischoff pointed out. Telnet is a text-based network protocol that is used for accessing computers over the internet.