Sources: Lt. Gen Rajesh Pant Is Next Cybersecurity ChiefDr. Gulshan Rai Confirms He Will Step Down in April
Retired Lt. Gen. Rajesh Pant apparently will be India's next national cybersecurity coordinator, serving as the special secretary heading the cybercrime and cybersecurity center at the prime minister's office, government sources tell Information Security Media Grup.
He will replace Dr. Gulshan Rai, India's first cybersecurity chief, at the end of his four-year term.
"My term gets over on April 1, and the new person will take charge from the same month," Rai tells ISMG. "He will further take forward the government vision on cybersecurity."
Pant declined to officially confirm his appointment, but he tells ISMG he is likely to join the prime minister's office on April 18 and can only provide details after that date.
The apparent new cybersecurity leader headed the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering and was involved in providing training on electronic warfare, cybersecurity and cryptology.
A Wealth of Experience
Some observers say Pant has experience that makes him well-prepared him for apparent his new role.
"Back in 2007-2008, he was one among the first ones to introduce information technology in defense services in India," says an official at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, or MeitY, who requested anonymity. "He introduced the concept of communication platforms on information warfare."
The official says the apparent selection of Pant for the cybersecurity leadership role "is a very good decision, and hopefully he will bring in much needed reforms."
Prashant Mali, Bombay high court lawyer and president of Cyber Law Consulting, says he expects Pant to develop a focused national cybersecurity strategy similar to what is practiced in military.
"I hope his appointment will give more thrust to cyber warfare and information warfare units, which the government has been planning for some time now," Mali says, predicting that Pant would be able to create "the vision and clear strategy to fight cybercrime."
Some cybersecurity experts predict that with the new leadership, India will establish an institutional cybersecurity framework and a cyber force to provide support to the police and law enforcement authorities.
Vineet Kumar, founder of Cyber Peace Foundation, expects the new chief to work out an effective collaborative framework to enable the industry, academia and the general public to contribute to the stability of cyberspace.
Kumar recommends creation of cybersecurity clusters and centers of excellence to train more cybersecurity professionals at a faster pace and encourage use of indigenous products for better security.
C.N. Shashidhar, founder at SecurIT Consultancy, notes: "We have a high level of dependency on foreign players in the telecommunications as well as military hardware and software products space. Despite several government departments being formed to encourage home-grown telecommunication players, why has not a single local player emerged in all these years? Why are we still dependent on Huawei and Cisco? I hope use of home-grown products would soon be a reality under the new leadership." (See: Will Huawei Play a Key Role in 5G Network Development?)
Some observers are hopeful that Pant will be more transparent in communicating about the government's cybersecurity initiatives. Dinesh O. Bareja, COO at the Open Security Alliance, argues, "We have a national cybersecurity policy on paper. How many of us actually know about it? We rarely have any discussions around it.
"We have several government departments looking at cybersecurity. To date, we do not know what technologies they are leveraging. Let's strive for transparency. The security community in the country wants to contribute back to the government, but we are unable to reach out to the right people."
Shashidhar expects the government to take appropriate steps to counter potential cyberthreats posed by Chinese companies and provide sufficient impetus to the local manufacturers to produce chips and telecom products for India.
Bareja would like to see Pant help lead an effort to promote research and development, local innovation, investments and entrepreneurship. He'd also like to see the government take a stronger stand on pushing global internet companies, including Facebook and WhatsApp, to fight against the spread of fake news.