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Budget 2024: Cybersecurity Leaders Anticipate Robust Measures and More Funds In its interim budget (2024-25), the government increased its cybersecurity allocation from INR 400 crore (2023-2024) to INR 750 crore. However, industry leaders are anticipating more towards cybersecurity in the face of new technological developments and cyber threats

By Shivani Tiwari

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As the Union Budget 2024-25 approaches, several cybersecurity startups are looking forward to the government's focus on promoting robust cybersecurity infrastructure, data privacy, and responsible Artificial Intelligence development. In the past two years, the Indian government has given its major focus on privacy-related issues and also passed Protection Data Privacy (DPDP) Bill 2023 and initiated new laws around deep fakes.

In its interim budget 2024-25, the government increased its cybersecurity allocation from INR 400 crore (2023-2024) to INR 750 crore. However, industry leaders are anticipating more towards cybersecurity in the face of new technological developments and cyber threats. "We saw a 267% jump in attacks on Indian websites and APIs in Q1 FY'24 vs Q1 FY'23 according to our State of Application Security Report. We are increasingly seeing low-rate DDoS attacks, botnet-driven credential stuffing, and brute force attacks. 90%+ apps have faced a bot attack and 70% of sites have faced a DDoS attack," said Ashish Tandon, Founder and CEO of Indusface.

Enhance National Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Industry leaders are calling for substantial funds to fortify national cybersecurity infrastructure, particularly in critical sectors. According to the CISCO Cybersecurity Readiness Index 2023, only 24 per cent of Indian organizations have the necessary resources to address their cybersecurity challenges. Meanwhile, over 30 percent were still in the first stage of preparedness. "Government should allocate significant funds to strengthen national cybersecurity infrastructure, including critical sectors like banking, energy, healthcare, and transportation," said Pankit Desai, founder and CEO of Sequretek.

Additionally, cybersecurity provider Check Point Software Technologies mentioned in its recent report that the Indian healthcare sector has experienced an average of 6,935 cyberattacks per week over the last six months, compared to 1,821 attacks per organization globally.

Support for Public Sector And Encourage Startups

Desai further stated that there is also a pressing need for dedicated funding to enhance cybersecurity measures in government departments and public sector enterprises. "Government should provide dedicated funding for cybersecurity measures in government departments and public sector enterprises to prevent data breaches and cyberattacks. Also, provide financial incentives and grants to cybersecurity start-ups to foster innovation and develop cutting-edge solutions," Desai added.

"India has been encountering a huge increase in attacks year on year leading to regulators tightening the noose of compliance for businesses and government, however, the budgets for cybersecurity are not keeping up pace with the requirements given the businesses are themselves subject to macroeconomic challenges. The finance ministry should consider providing short-term financial benefits to businesses investing in meeting these compliance obligations upholding government's commitment towards the cybersecurity of citizens," Tandon also added.

"Tax exemptions for R&D expenditures, more grants for innovation projects, and support for startups and technology incubators, DD Mishra, VP Analyst, Gartner also added.

In the year 2023, IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in a press release that more than 50 government websites were hacked between 2022-23.

Development of Digital Infrastructure

While sharing the IT sector's expectations for the upcoming budget DD Mishra, VP Analyst, Gartner said "The IT sector anticipates that the government will allocate funds in Budget 2024 for the development of digital infrastructure, such as high-speed internet connectivity and enhanced cybersecurity measures. This investment would support the growth of the IT industry and enable digital transformation initiatives. Additionally, incentives for research and development (R&D) and tax benefits are expected to encourage innovation, particularly in AI and AI-enabled capabilities."

Development of Cybersecurity Skills, Awareness and Startups

The development of cybersecurity skills is another key area of focus in the face of increasing cyber threats. Leaders are advocating for investments in educational programs at universities and technical institutions to produce highly skilled cybersecurity professionals for the nation. India is currently experiencing a shortage of roughly 800,000 cybersecurity professionals, said Akshay Joshi, Head of Industry, Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum (WEF), in January 2024 to CNBC 18.

"Investment in educational programs at universities and technical institutions to build a robust pipeline of cybersecurity professionals and subsidize industry-recognized cybersecurity certifications for professionals to ensure continuous skill development. Also, fund nationwide campaigns to raise awareness about cybersecurity best practices among businesses and the general public," Desai noted.

"Investments in cybersecurity education are crucial to address the talent shortage. Lowering GST on cybersecurity products and services would make them more accessible, encouraging broader adoption," Mohan Krishnamurthy Madwachar, Country Manager, Sattrix also added.

"There is also an expectation for the government to introduce initiatives for skill development and upskilling programs to meet emerging industry requirements. This could involve partnerships with educational institutions and industry bodies to bridge the skill gap and enhance workforce employability," Mishra also added.

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