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Importance of Digital Forensics in India

Digital forensics consists of investigative techniques used for the gathering of digital evidence from electronic devices for submission in a court of law. Conventional crime leaves behind clues like fingerprints, DNA, footprints, and witnesses for investigators to examine. Similarly, digital activity on electronic devices leaves a trail of data for cyber investigators to inspect and find the perpetrators.

India’s Growing Digital Footprint

India is a country with over 1.3 billion people but ranks poorly in terms of the ratio of police personnel to population. The ratio stands at 138 police officers for every lakh citizens. With high levels of bureautic red tape, justice is often very slow and difficult. However, things are improving and the government has begun to implement reforms.

In light of such appalling statistics, the importance of digital forensics in India cannot be overstated. The number of smartphone users in the country has risen sharply with the availability of cheap mobile data, and with that, the number of cybercrimes has seen a drastic increase. The current information era has witnessed several cyberattacks across the nation and they are only predicted to increase not only in India but across the globe.

Official government reports mentioned that India experienced over twenty-one thousand cyber attacks in 2017. With limited resources to deal with cognizable crimes, cybercrimes have not been considered a priority and continue to receive little to no attention when it comes to government policy decisions.

Bolder Attacks on Bigger Targets

Cyber attacks across the globe have increased in frequency and audacity. Gone are the days when people had their computers hacked. Hackers have now moved on to larger targets. The city of Atlanta in the United States experienced a massive attack in 2018 that crippled many of its public services, utilities, and municipal functions. It cost the city nearly $10 million in damages. 

Considering such blatant attacks, a robust cyber forensics capability is extremely important for assessing cybercrime and implementing preventive measures. 

As India continues to embrace technology and digitization into its public sector; cybersecurity and digital forensics must have maximum priority. Cyber forensics is the foundation for an effective defensive measure against cyberattacks on civilians and government targets. It enables investigators to analyze computer systems after an attack to determine the extent of damage, recover lost data and find the perpetrators.

Why Data is valuable for hackers?

Data has become an extremely valuable resource, and several subject matter experts agree that it is more valuable than oil. Since internet activities from every user generates information about usage, user’s data reveals information about people’s browsing habits, purchasing patterns, and even political inclinations. This information is invaluable for advertisers who can customize their content to suit each user’s preferences. 

In the wrong hands, such information can be used to sway public opinion and influence elections. Hence, protection against such data against breaches is paramount.

Urgent Changes For Evolving Times

India has one of the world’s largest IT industry and several tech startups in India received millions of dollars in funding. India’s IT industry is valued at over $150 billion since 2017 and provides various types of products and services. Moreover, several departments with the Indian government have digitized operations. Each year sees more people in India turning to mobile applications for a wide range of activities. In light of this, the ratio of computer users to that of forensic investigators being one of the lowest in the world paints a grim portrait.   

An increasingly high number of people rely on mobile applications for several day-to-day activities like payment of utility bills, transferring & receiving money, paying taxes, etc. So, a cyberattack on one’s device could be catastrophic. Most of the 21,000+ victims of cyberattacks in India are still yet to receive justice or even find out who was behind the crimes. These types of breaches are only going to increase in frequency and in the absence of forensic capabilities, most of the Indian citizens remain completely vulnerable to cybercrimes.

All of these factors underpin the urgent need for cyber forensics capabilities. It is extremely important for universities to offer relevant courses and for the government to allocate higher budgets to establish forensic centers across the country. The existing centers that offer investigative services are mostly privately run and are rarely affordable to everyone. Additionally, government centers are often difficult for common people to access.

Due to the ongoing wave of globalization, there has been an explosion in the demand for IT services, which in turn has maximized the requirement of digital forensic experts. There is a severe dearth of trained and experienced experts for cybersecurity and cyber forensics. Since cyberattacks or data breaches don’t receive the same level of media coverage as other tangible types of crimes; the problem is further worsened by a lack of awareness about the same. All of these factors have contributed to a frighteningly inadequate cybersecurity infrastructure.

Exciting Career Opportunities

Digital forensics is an integral part of cybersecurity and it involves multiple levels of proficiency. At the beginners’ level, cyber forensic investigations are carried out with the help of tools and does not require the investigator to be acquainted with programming skills. However, advanced levels delve deeper into the subject and are recommended for individuals who have a deep understanding of computers. At this level, they would be authorized to conduct in-depth investigations of data breaches involving large companies and highly sensitive data.

Several business analysts agree that the market for cybersecurity and cyber forensics is very large and continuously growing. The global cybersecurity industry currently stands at over $137 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to an astounding $248 billion in the next five years. But the requirement to fill this massive gap is grossly insufficient. This creates a rare opportunity for graduates to forge a lucrative career going into the next decade. 

The last two years witnessed a rise in cybercrimes by over 200% as compared to 2015-2017. Experts in digital security and law enforcement have issued several warnings to authorities, predicting the impending rise in illicit activities in the digital world. While some countries have taken steps to bolster relevant investigative capabilities, India remains alarmingly behind in implementing any significant reforms in the existing cyber defensive infrastructure.

The Future of Cyber World

Although the generation of millennials is well aware of the dearth of expertise, the government is only just waking up to the seriousness of this issue. However, several private sector companies across many industries have implemented extensive cybersecurity measures and employed some of the top cyber forensic investigators in the aftermath of an attack.

This is indicative of rising awareness and subsequent initiative on the part of business leaders regarding the importance of digital security and forensics. But it is yet to translate into definitive action to reform the education system to prepare upcoming graduates for the huge market for computer security and digital forensics. At present, several privately owned institutes are offering certificate courses for cybersecurity and digital forensics.

 India has established itself as a hub of technology and innovation. Many startups in Bangalore and Hyderabad has received millions in investments and continues to be founded by ambitious entrepreneurs. As the world’s second-most populous country with a flourishing software industry, India is an attractive market for many types of internet-based products and services.

However, it also raises serious questions about the prevailing cybersecurity scenario in the country. As we move towards an increasingly digitized world, a solid foundation in security measures can ensure sustainable growth and high employment opportunities. 

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