VPNs in India must be permanently blocked due to increase in cybercrime, parliamentary panel urges government again

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has once again urged the government to block virtual private networks (VPNs) in India. The committee cited VPN services as a technological challenge that leads to “getting around the walls of cybersecurity and allowing criminals to remain anonymous online.” In its report presented to Rajya Sabha on government action on past issues, the committee again recommended developing a “coordination mechanism” in collaboration with international agencies to block VPNs permanently. It also asked the Ministry of Interior to strengthen tracking and surveillance mechanisms to control the use of VPN and the dark Web.

According to the report presented by MediaNama, the committee recommended that the Ministry of the Interior work with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to identify and permanently block VPNs with the help of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country. .

The parliamentary committee’s recommendations come months after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) scrapped previous regulations for IT businesses and call centers in the country to facilitate the use of VPNs. The government further simplified the rules in June this year. The recent changes were essentially aimed at helping employees work remotely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entitled “Action taken by the government on the recommendations/observations contained in the 233th Report on Atrocities and Crimes against Women and Children”, the report was presented to the Rajya Sabha on 10 August. It is a follow-up to the previous report that was presented in March and is also available for public access through the Rajya Sabha portal. MeitY responded to the report, although the committee is not satisfied with the response.

The IT ministry mentioned several powers under which the government can block information from public access, including “interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India; defense of India; state security; friendly relations with foreign states or; public order or, to prevent incitement to commit any recognizable offense related to the above.” The ministry confirmed to the committee that if the request to block such VPNs is received under section 69A of the IT Act, MeitY may initiate the process as specified in the rules of the that section.

However, MeitY does not include any specific answers regarding permanent blocking of VPNs. In another recommendation / observation, the committee noted: “MeitY’s incomplete response as no information was provided on coordination mechanisms with international agencies to permanently block VPNs and initiatives taken / proposed to strengthen the tracking and surveillance mechanisms for placing a check about the use of VPN and the dark web. The MHA may endeavor to obtain this information from MeitY and provide it to the Committee. “

In addition to blocking VPNs, the standing committee recommended that the government create more cyber forensic labs. It also urged the Ministry of Interior to “empower all State Police and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to take appropriate action, regardless of state boundaries, while examining a cyber crime.”

The committee also requested updating courses on cybercrime for law enforcement agencies, as the nature of these crimes is evolving in the country. The Ministry of Interior responded to the committee and reported that the National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) National Level Training Center (NCRB), based in Mahipalpur, New Delhi, was conducting short- and long-term training and refresher courses. periodically to all law enforcement agencies.

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Jagmeet Singh writes about consumer technology for Gadgets 360 from New Delhi. Jagmeet is a senior reporter for Gadgets 360 and frequently writes about applications, computer security, Internet services and telecommunications developments. Jagmeet is available on Twitter at @JagmeetS13 or email at jagmeets@ndtv.com. Please submit your leads and tips. Most

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