The Parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs, citing the growing threat from the cyber domain, has recommended banning Virtual Private Networks, popularly known as (VPNs), as per reports by MediaNama.
A VPN is an online tool that promises privacy and anonymity of the user, by allowing them to connect to private networks with a public internet connection.
According to reports, the committee has suggested the Indian government to permanently ban VPN services in the sub-continent. The committee concerned with the technological challenges posed by VPN and the Dark web, suggests that it allows criminals to bypass cybersecurity walls, and also allows them to keep their identity anonymous. It is also of concern that VPNs can be easily downloadable on the internet, and there are many such websites that provide such facilities and advertise them. The committee, therefore, recommends the home ministry to coordinate with the Ministry of Information and technology (MeitY) and block VPN services with the help of the internet service providers.
VPN services are used by most Indian companies to secure their networks and digital assets from hackers. With the onset of the pandemic and all IT jobs shifting to a work from home set-up, using unsecured home internet connections, VPN has become a primary security tool. Although VPN service does allow anonymity of the user, and also is very frequently used by civil society to access information blocked or not available in the country, the benefits IT companies and other firms derive from VPN service when it comes to securing networks is huge.
The recommendation comes months after the Department of telecommunication had scrapped the earlier rules for IT Business and call centres to ease the usage of VPNs The government further simplified the rules in June this year, which were all in the order to facilitate remote working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Interest of sovereignty and integrity of India; defence of India; security of the State; friendly relations with foreign States or; public order or, for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above." are the many powers under which the government can limit information from public access. However, MietY does not suggest a provision for the government to permanently block VPN.
In addition to banning VPN, the committee has also suggested the Home Ministry set up more cyber forensic laboratories. It also recommends empowering all state police and law enforcement agencies to take appropriate action in examining cybercrime regardless of state boundaries. Lastly, the committee asked to refresh courses on cybercrimes for Law Enforcement Agencies as the nature of these crimes are evolving in the country.
- Supratik Mitra (01/09/2021)