Increased Cyber Security Threats with the Increasing Unsafe Computers and Internet Connections in India

is growing rapidly in IT infrastructure on its way to become an IT super power. According to I-Cube study, PC ownership grew 36% and Internet subscriptions grew 25% in 2008. However, a large number of computers in India have pirated OS and softwares instead of genuine copies. Moreover, a significant percent of the Internet connections are without antivirus protection. These issues pose a great threat to the security of the PCs and the cyber world making India a major threat source.

Continuous Growth in PC Internet Penetration
has recorded a healthy growth rate in PC and Internet penetration as people have started to use PCs and Internet for multiple activities. PC owners and Internet users grew 36% and 25% in 2008 respectively, according to I-Cube study. According to Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT), desktop sales were 52.7 lakh units in the fiscal year 2008-09. Of them, assembled and unbranded systems accounted for 31%, proving that a significant portion of PCs sold are assembled.

It is well known that most of the assembled systems have pirated OS and other software. People deliberately buy them because they can save a few thousand rupees with the pirated versions, which are unreliable and easily succumb to malicious threats.

68% of the Software Is Pirated
PCs users are increasingly opting for pirated softwares. Sixth Annual BSA-IDC Global Software Piracy Study revealed that PC software piracy level in India is 68% in 2008. Major reason for this can be the preference of assembled/unbranded systems that use pirated softwares to save few thousand rupees. When people buy their fist computer or newly introduced to Internet, the area neglected is security of the system. Pirated operating systems or softwares don’t get updates or patches regularly, making them prone to attacks easily. This leaves an opportunity to the cyber criminals as PCs without proper security are extremely vulnerable to hacking.

The risk of cyber crime and security problems arises with software piracy. Generally, websites and peer to peer sites offering pirated softwares infect PCs with trojans, spyware, keyloggers, and identity theft tools. According to Symantec, there is an explosion of malware in the recent past years worldwide and they have listed 1,800,000 unique signatures in 2008 that grew 239% YOY. India with a vast number of Internet users with pirated softwares is a soft target for serious cyber crimes such as hacking.

Viruses Originating From India Increased
As there are a significant number of illegal copies of OS and other softwares in use are not secured, there is a high probability of PCs getting infected when connected to Internet directly or connected with a data storage device. They in turn become the source of virus. According to Network Box Analysis of Internet Threats in July 2009, India is the fourth largest source of Internet threats with 5.2% of the total threats, and is increasing rapidly.

Laziness and Vested Interests of Some ISPs Make Users Suffer
Most ISPs encourage security compromised Internet connections to their subscribers by refusing to configure routers for home broadband connections. Accessing Internet without a router can be compared to walking outside without shoes. A PC that directly access Internet without a router is easily vulnerable to online threats such as hacking, as it lacks some basic protection that a router offers. Computer malware increases the bandwidth consumption.

Since many broadband connections charge on usage basis unlike in countries like US, it is the ISP’s interest if malware exists in their client’s PCs. Educating consumers on malware providing awareness could cut their revenue per user.

Due to these irresponsible ISPs, threats originating in India are increasing rapidly. India with the fifth highest broadband subscribers in Asia-Pacific-Japan region is top in malicious code activity in volume. Indian Internet users face serious threat from virus and worm attacks with 9 out of top 10 malicious codes found. Low adoption of security measures encouraged the sharp increase of bot-infected PCs making them compromise to online threats and crimes. There were 103,812 distinct bot-infected PCs with an average of 836 bots per day in 2008 in India.

India with an increasing IT infrastructure is expected to continue its share of growing malicious activities. It is the responsibility of government, ISPs, Internet and computer users to understand the threats posed by unbranded systems, pirated softwares and unsafe Internet connections and counter them with improved security protocols and measures.

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