Huge UK trade delegation on cyberpassage to India

Feb 19, 2013

The declaration will be good news for those considerable number of UK residents whose private data have been outsourced by the banks, insurance companies and their ilk to call centres and data farms in various Indian states and who have them found themselves subject to some sophisticated (and some not so clever) frauds as a result. Records of the UK's National Health Service are, contentiously, also stored in India, something which many people regard as a national scandal.

That said, the number of reported crimes has been comparatively small given the size of the outsourced operations, but they have been given a lot of coverage in the media and people have rightly been concerned about the safety, privacy and security of their data.

So, Mr. Cameron and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, speaking at a meeting in Delhi, have announced the formation of a joint "taskforce" with the remit to "counter the growing threat of cybercrime".

However, rather than protecting direct UK interests, the main focus of the taskforce will be on China as India is growing daily more concerned about the number of cyber attacks on it which apparently emanate from within the People's Republic. These attacks are increasing in number and severity as India's economy continues to boom and grow.

It is also to be hoped that India will also move to put its own house in order and provide better defences for the vast amount of UK data washing around the country. The simple fact of the matter is that as things stand far too many Indian IT systems and networks are eminently vulnerable to hacking.

However, the UK Prime Minister is walking something of a tightrope in regard to UK/Sino relationships. Only this weekend the influential Sunday Times newspaper reported that the cabinet is split over Britain's approach to cyber attacks from China.

The piece claimed that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign secretary, among others, favour a robust reaction to these incursions whilst the Prime Minister himself and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, want a conciliatory, softy-sotly response. The reason for such appeasement is obvious: the UK government, facing the possibility of an unprecedented trip-dip recession, is doing all it can to attract China to invest more and more in Britain.

Asked point-blank whether the new taskforce has come about as a direct result of a perceived cyberthreat to both India and the UK from China, David Cameron gave an anodyne response that signally failed to answer the question. He said, "The threat in terms of cybersecurity comes from all sorts of different places and organisations - a lot of it criminal. What the British have done is to bring together a strategy to protect key industries, key infrastructure, key capabilities in terms of cybersecurity and that is what we want to share with others."

The reply skates around reality whilst seeming say something weighty that on closer examination says nothing at all. The proof of the pudding will come when it can be empirically proven that UK data held in India is safer and better protected than it is today. That will take a lot of time and a lot of money. Meanwhile we wait from the next great cyber attack from that country on the other side of the Himalayas, the name of which seems to have slipped the Prime Minister's memory.

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