Every year, 28 January is observed as #WorldDataPrivacyDay to promote cyber security practices and raise public awareness.
In India, the adaption rate of newer technologies is among the highest in the world; over 500 million people own smartphones and digital assistants. In 2020, Indians are expected to spend a whopping $45.7 billion (approx. Rs. 3.25 trillion) on smart consumer electronics.
Acknowledging World Data Privacy Day, technophile Indians have revealed steps they undertake in everyday life to ensure they do not fall prey to hack-attacks, bank fraud and data leakages.
“When I first started becoming active on social networking platforms, I would casually open my Facebook and Instagram on school computers and cyber cafes until one day my Facebook account was hacked. The hacker sent derogatory messages from my profile to random people and changed my privacy settings to public. My phone number had gone viral. I had to shut down my account and change my number. Now, I make sure I only use familiar systems to access my online profiles. I tell others to do the same thing,” Ankita Mishra, a 24-year old student from Mumbai told Sputnik.
Between 2016 and 2019, Indians downloaded 40 billion apps on their smartphones, registering a whopping 190 percent jump in app downloads. India’s over 493 million internet users accomplish everyday tasks using their smartphones, like shopping and paying via apps.
In October 2019, the confidential data of nearly 1.3 million debit and credit card-owing Indians was exposed on the “dark web” for sale. The massive private data leak could have fetched cyber-thieves up to roughly $130 million.
Plagued by security concerns and faced with the prospect of cyber-theft, today's tech-savvy Indians are incorporating extensive research before entering their bank credentials into shopping and digital payments apps.
“I am an online-shopaholic, because of which I am drawn to apps that offer me what I am looking for. But, with so many news stories about how everybody is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, I make sure to read app information and reviews on Playstore before downloading them, because eventually, I may have to link my net banking information with the app. Better safe than sorry,” said 26-year old Vishesh Jain, a businessman from the city of Jabalpur.
The subject of cyber-security is gaining traction in India right now.
Inspired by true crime stories, content streaming giant Netflix India, which has millions of users across the country, recently launched an original series named “Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega” that sends a strong message about how answering a phone call from an unknown number and sharing your personal details could deprive you of your bank savings. The film shows why the Indian state of Jharkhand is called the phishing capital of the country, based on the growing cyber-crime cases.
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After watching the series, many young Indians became more alert in making sure their older relatives didn't fall prey to telemarketing fraudsters that extract the personal details of scam victims and expose them to the risks of cyber threats.
“My grandparents and parents are extremely unaware of the risks they could invite by clicking on random links they get, especially on WhatsApp and Facebook. I keep telling them to refrain from taking quizzes to see which type of plant or TV serial character they’d be. Elders need to be informed about online risks,” said 22-year-old Arjun Parashar, a content writer from New Delhi.
The Government of India is also quickly taking steps to promote digital literacy among Indians while devising laws to safeguard the online information of the nation and its citizens.
In December 2019, the Indian Cabinet approved the Personal Data Protection Bill, which aims to create an ecosystem for processing personal data by private and public organisations with detailed rules regarding collection, handling, consent and punishment.
The country is also emphasising on “data localisation” norms that would require foreign companies to store data pertaining to financial transactions in servers located within the country.