Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

[op-ed snap] The sovereign test

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Rights in the age of technology

Context

Will Cathcart, the global head of WhatsApp, wrote that “Governments and companies need to do more to protect vulnerable groups and individuals”. 

Background

    • He was referring to spyware attacks, like the one that the messaging platform succumbed to from Pegasus.
    • Pegasus is a malicious software developed by NSO.
    • WhatsApp has disclosed that a “not insignificant” number of Indian journalists, rights activists and lawyers were targeted using Pegasus.

Responsibility of governments

    • Cathcart placed the responsibility on both tech companies and governments. 

NSO

    • NSO severed its contract with Saudi Arabia after accusations by a journalist.
    • He claimed that its software was used to hack his phone, which allowed Saudi agencies to track journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated in Istanbul. 

Technology & Fundamental Rights

    • WhatsApp has often claimed that its end-to-end encryption makes it a safe and private way to communicate. That claim is now being contested. 
    • In the digital age, companies will emerge and operate in the grey areas of the intersection between technology and security to make a profit. 
    • But national security must not be used as a shield by either governments or private players to justify the violation of fundamental rights.

Indian scenario

    • Right to privacy – India is a constitutional democracy where the courts have read the right to privacy in the right to life and liberty. 
    • Indian response – Law and IT minister said he has asked WhatsApp to explain the breach, while the home ministry has said it will take strict action against those violating the law. 
    • Actions in previous instances – Earlier, the Indian government and parliamentary committees have summoned executives from Facebook and Twitter.
    • The vulnerability of India – Indians continue to be the largest user base for WhatsApp. 
    • Relation with Israel – India also enjoys close ties with Israel. 

Way ahead

    • Indian government must leverage its relationship with Israel to hold NSO to account. 
    • It must punish anyone found guilty of unlawfully violating the privacy of Indian citizens. 
    • The government has made it clear that it holds a sovereign right over the data of its citizens. The idea of data sovereignty must include a citizen’s right to privacy. 

Conclusion

The government’s response in the aftermath of the WhatsApp hack will demonstrate its commitment to the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

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