Published: 18th October 2022
UGC asks varsities, colleges to implement syllabus for cyber security courses. What do experts have to say?
Why should youngsters be concerned about cybersecurity? Will this new initiative by the UGC help the future of the country?
The first Wednesday of every month will now be celebrated as Cyber Jaagrookta Diwas in every higher educational institute, as directed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Adding to this, UGC launched a syllabus of cyber security courses for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) levels a few days back.
Also, just yesterday, October 17, UGC wrote to all Vice-Chancellors of universities and Principals of colleges "to take necessary steps for implementation of the syllabus".
Certainly, the commission has been taking many strides when it comes to spreading awareness about cybersecurity. In fact, during the launch, UGC Chairman Prof M Jagadesh Kumar said, "The syllabus aims to create more aware, responsive and responsible digital citizens, thereby contributing effectively to an overall healthy cybersecurity posture and ecosystem."
At the undergraduate level, the course is aiming to lay a foundation in the field by focusing on topics such as cyber law and cybercrime. With the use of social media growing, the course at the UG level will also focus on topics which will be extremely useful in today’s digital world. At the PG level, the course will deep-dive into a few more advanced topics such as reporting and redressal mechanisms for violations and misuse of social media platforms.
Let's talk about implementation
With these two initiatives in place by the UGC, Rupesh Mittal, Founder-Director of Cyber Jagrithi and Safety Foundation lauds the UGC initiative and also asks, “How well it is going to be implemented?”
Mittal said that the UGC made Environmental Studies (EVS) compulsory across all universities, and added, “I think it is important that Cybersecurity is also made important, given that the whole country is shifting towards a technology-driven online world. Making cybersecurity mandatory is not enough, the UGC should also regulate the teaching staff who are appointed to take this course and fix standard eligibility criteria for these faculty,” he said.
Addressing the same concern about the right teachers, Dr Pavan Kumar said, “Theoretically, the syllabus is very good, but institutions must adopt practical and case study methods to teach them. Otherwise, the objectives of the course will not be served.”
Talking about the importance of this course and how it will help them in the future, Rini S, Cybersecurity Consultant at EHack Academy said, “It is critical for educational organisations to be proactive, continually upgrade their security systems and have a dedicated IT staff capable of implementing robust defence policies and staying ahead of the constantly evolving techniques employed by cybercriminals.”
The UGC has released the syllabus for these courses which includes a variety of modules. According to the course curriculum, at the end of these modules, students should be educated enough to protect their devices and online accounts from cyber crimes. A couple of modules of this cybersecurity course such as cyber security of digital devices at the UG level and risk-based assessment, audit and compliance at the PG level have been categorised as basic level and advanced level respectively so that students can have a strong base of the topic. The course also includes a number of practical aspects.
Dr K I Pavan Kumar, Principal, KL College of Law, said, “The Ministry of Home Affairs has suggested a set of topics that must be covered under the annual action plan for generating cybersecurity awareness in organisations. These topics are divided into four major units.” The professor goes on to list them:
Unit 1: This is mostly a base for cyber security and is about cyber crimes and safety, introduction to cybercrimes, kinds of cybercrimes and so on
Unit 2: Covers the concept of cyber hygiene, that is the use of technology on a daily basis in a number of things such as browser security, desktop security, UPI security, Google map security, OTP fraud, Wi-Fi security, spotting fake apps on social media and the internet and so on
Unit 3: With thousands of users using different social media platforms in the country, Unit 3 will majorly cover Introduction to Social Networks and the safest way to access and use these platforms
Unit 4: Covers the concept of e-payments, ATM and telebanking, immediate payment systems, Mobile money transfer, e-wallets and so on
Let’s hear it from the experts…
About the syllabus, Anil Rachamalla, Founder and CEO of End Now Foundation, stated, “The UGC cannot have a set of the concrete syllabus. Technology is growing and the syllabus too should keep up with the growing technology and be updated regularly.” He also said that the country’s technological growth is extremely fast and so should the security systems of the country. “We are living in a society where we have virtual reality (VR), meta verse and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it is important that these issues are addressed in the course and the course is updated accordingly,” he added.
Is young India giving importance to cyber security?
Anil Rachamalla gives an example comparing MBBS and CA graduates with Engineering graduates. He says, “If a Medical or CA student graduates, they get a job immediately, but that is not the same with engineering students. They study the same course on IT or CSE for four years and then pursue a course outside somewhere because the syllabus in these colleges is outdated and they have to look for external channels to gain the knowledge that they should have already gained in the first place.”
“Students are not taking this issue seriously and implementing this course might backfire because they might start looking at this as just another subject they need to pass and it is the duty of the faculty to make it interesting and interactive,” said Rupesh Mittal.
Dr Pavan Kumar says, “As a cyber-law professor I have been teaching cyber law for the past five years and I realise that the students are not serious about cyber ethics and rights and duties as a citizen. Students/young minds should realise that their cyber presence is very vulnerable.”
"As much as we give importance to consent in person, digital consent is also extremely important and cybersecurity will pave the way to giving importance to digital consent and reducing cyber crimes," says Anil Rachamalla.
Some tips from experts
Rupesh Mittal offers tips to protect oneself from cyber attacks
- Always have different passwords for all your accounts. One good algorithm to have while generating a dynamic password is to use different cases, substitute letters with numbers and utilise the special characters that are available (eg APPLE can be taken as A15p12E&*)
- Sharing OTPs/PINs/passwords are like signing cheques and it is best to avoid sharing these with anyone
- Most hackers do not ask you to send your OTPs or share your bank details, they just send links to download applications which could be remote screen-sharing applications with which they can track your devices and activities
- It is always better to have two-step verification for all the accounts and if possible it is advised to have two SIM cards, one for personal use and another for banking purposes