Cooperative societies too not secure, get in crosshairs of cyber criminals

| | New Delhi
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Cooperative societies too not secure, get in crosshairs of cyber criminals

Sunday, 07 November 2021 | Archana Jyoti | New Delhi

As digitisation has become the buzzword amid the Covid-19 pandemic, cooperative societies, particularly banks — whether big or small — are finding themselves in the crosshairs of cyber criminals. This has prompted stakeholders like the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) to step forward to ensure cyber security of digital assets of these institutions.

“There has been growing awareness of an organisation’s cyber preparedness and defence mechanisms. A large number of institutions wake up to this reality only after an incident. Considering the seriousness of issues connected with cyber-security and protecting the interests of members of various cooperative societies including banks, we have already constituted Cooperative Institutions Cybersecurity Advisory Forum (CICAF) way back in May 2019.

“We have been holding several rounds of training programs on cyber-security for cooperative institutions, including banks since then. Also, a draft model framework for “Cyber-security and IT Guidelines for User Interaction” has also been formulated under the supervision of former Cyber Security Advisor in PMO Dr Gulshan Rai, who is now Senior Advisor (cyber security) with our organisation,” NCDC MD Sundeep K Nayak said.

However, he refused to share details of the draft stating that it was still being discussed. The NCDC will be holding a meeting on November 8 with all the interested stakeholders to discuss the draft as well as ways to further tighten the system and plug the loopholes in cyber attacks.

In fact, the need for the guidelines for cyber security of the cooperatives has been consistently felt for the past few years particularly after reports of hackers attack in various cooperatives dealing in finance business. For instance, in late 2018, Cosmos Bank, India’s second largest co-operative bank, was attacked by hackers who siphoned off over Rs. 94 crore through a malware attack on one of its servers.

Similarly, later in May 2019, a cooperative bank known as Urban Cooperative got hacked and in the process lost `68 lakh from one of its biggest accounts. In December 2019, data leak from insiders led to the loss of `29 crores from Shamrao Vitthal Co-operative Bank while the Chembur Nagarik Sahakari bank which has only 10 branches and serves customers located in the Chembur suburb of Mumbai has reported hackers trying to attack its servers.

This seems to be just the tip of the iceberg as a lot of incidents go unreported either because the banks don’t realise a data breach in the first place or fear reputation loss, pointed out players in the sector.

Jyotindra Mehta, President, National Federation of Urban Cooperative Banks and Credit Societies Ltd. (NAFSCUB), pointed out that as most of the banks are very small the price involved in following RBI guidelines to adopt the cyber security technology is very huge. “These banks need to be provided with a technology umbrella to cover their risk. We have to come together to face the cyber security challenge in terms of advisory and functionally as well,” he said.

Dr Gulshan Rai talked about the gravity of the problem in today’s fully networked society artificial intelligence and machine learning which, he said, makes it easy to manipulate the software. “Software manipulation poses risk to the digital assets and may have huge financial and strategic impact. Moreover, convergence of technology and high speed of communication coming up with 4G & 5G will make it even more difficult to have security of digital assets and information contained in digital assets.

As per the RBI data, in at least ten years till 2018, banks in India faced 130,000 reported cases of cyber fraud involving an estimated `700 crore. In comparison to the asset value held by the banks, this is a small amount, however, a severe cyber-attack can result in bank failure even when no money is lost directly, said the experts.

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