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Daily Category  (Intellectual Property Rights)

A quest for order amid cyber insecurity

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The present time is both, the best and worst for cyberspace.

Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have amassed over a trillion dollars in market value since the beginning of the year 2020.

However, on the other hand, cyber-attacks have grown as well.

2. INCREASING CYBER-INSECURITY

2.1 Increasing malwares

  • A report puts the number of daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 to over 18 million in a single week in April 2020 monitored by a single email provider.
  • This was in addition to more than 240 million COVID-19-related daily spam messages.        
  • Twitter hackers and ransomware targets too are increasing by the day.

2.2 Cyber-attacks and States

  • Concerns about role of states in cyber-attack are also surfacing as mentioned by Australia.
  • There are also allegations on China regarding hacking health-care institutions in the U.S. doing research on COVID-19 treatment.
  • The United Kingdom has warned Russian state backed hackers targeting pharmaceutical companies working on COVID-19 vaccine.
  • India has recently banned specified Chinese Apps stating that they are “engaged in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
  • This act of the Indian Government adds another layer of complexity to the contestation in cyberspace.
  • Therefore, clearly the cyber insecurity of individuals, organisations and states is expanding amidst the COVID-19 atmosphere.

2.3 Better understanding of Global Cyberspace

  • The world is increasingly moving in the digital space. People are adapting to new ways of digital interaction and an increasing number of critical infrastructure is turning digital.
  • However, despite the accelerated pace towards digital technologies, most of us do not understand the parameters of the transformation towards digital.
  • Much like the global public health, cybersecurity too is considered a niche area and is left to the experts.
  • The covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of the global public health infrastructure and the need to abide by agreed rules.
  • On similar lines, a better understanding of the global cyberspace architecture is also imperative.

3. NO GLOBAL COMMONS

3.1 The global commons

  • International law identifies four global commons viz. the High Seas, the Atmosphere, the Antarctica and the Outer Space.
  • The borderless global cyberspace is also considered a part of the “global commons”, however experts are of the view that it does not exist.

3.2 Border control on cyberspace

  • The view of cyberspace in terms of connectivity across national boundaries is an illusion.
  • Since the internet is dependent on the physical infrastructure that is under national control, the internet too is subjected to border control.
  • States control the national networks through laws in accordance with their international commitments.

3.3 Responsibility of States vis-a-vis cyberspace

  • States are also responsible for the following:
    • Ensuring cybersecurity,
    • Enforcing laws related to cyberspace
    • Protection of public good
  • Apart from their own actions, States are also responsible for actions taken from within their sovereign territory.
  • However, the implementation of the States' responsibilities towards cyberspace is difficult, since the infrastructure on which the Internet is dependent, falls within the jurisdictions of multiple states.
  • These states have differing approaches towards the view of cyberspace and cybersecurity.

3.4 Multiple Stakeholders

  • There are multiple stakeholders in the cyberspace including both states and non-state actors.
  • The non-state actors play key roles with both benign and malignant intentions.
  • Furthermore, some networks are private which have different objectives than the states have.
  • At last, the cyber tools too have dual use, cheap and make attribution and verification of actions quite a task.

3.5 Developing cyber norms

  • Despite the presence of both state and non-state actors, only the states have the right of oversight.
  • There is no single authority for the global cyberspace like the World Health Organization, which can monitor, assess, advise and inform about fulfilment of state commitments, in however limited or unsatisfactory a manner.
  • To put it simply we are still searching for the cyber "rules of the road".
  • Presently we are in the developing stage of “cyber norms” that can provide a balance between the competing demands of national sovereignty and transnational connectivity.

4. GAPS IN CURRENT PROCESSES

4.1 UN and Cybersecurity

  • In 1998, Russia raised the issue of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in international security on the UN agenda.
  • Since then, six Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) with two-year terms and limited membership have been working on the issue.
  • In addition to the GGE, last year, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) began working on the same issue with similar mandates. The group is open to all and many states have shown interest in the group.
  • A report is expected by the next year.

4.2 Discussions in the group

  • The discussions are focussed narrowly in line with the mandate.
  • Issues that have been kept out are:
    • Internet governance
    • Development
    • Espionage
    • Digital privacy
  • Issues like terrorism and crime are acknowledged as important but the discussions on these topics are not as thoroughly done as in other UN bodies.

4.3 Outcome of the UN Exercise

  • The net outcome of the UN exercise on cyberspace is the acceptance that international law and the UN Charter applies to cyberspace as well.
  • On these lines, a set of voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour was agreed to in 2015.
  • However, the aspects are circumstances in which the international law will be applicable have still not been addressed and various reports on the matter call for action including the recent report by UN Secretary General AntónioGuterres’s entitled “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation”.
  • However, given the present geopolitical circumstances there is very little hope of such processes being undertaken.

5. MORE ENGAGEMENT NEEDED

5.1 Expanding cyberspace in India

  • Generally speaking, technologies move faster and are ahead of the development of associated norms and institutions, similar is the case with cyberspace.
  • This provides India the opportunity with the time and space to develop our approach in tune with relevance of cyberspace to India's future economic, social and political objectives.
  • Despite the digital divide, India’s cyber footprint is expanding at an accelerated rate and therefore the rate of conflicts and crimes will increase too.
  • Under these circumstances, the Shared “rules of the road” become imperative.

5.2 India and Cybersecurity

  • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is a very active nodal agency for cybersecurity.
  • Five of the six GGEs formed had representatives from India.
  • India is also an active participant at the OEWG.
  • India is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which has also shown support for a code of conduct.
  • India also joined the Christchurch Call, which brought countries and corporations together on order for an increased effort in stopping the use of social media for promoting terrorism and violent extremism.

5.3 Need of active engagements

  • The cyberspace is becoming an increasingly contested and fragmented domain.
  • Going forward, the issue of cybersecurity will require better arrangements and more intense partnerships with additional safeguards.

5.4 India and Global Efforts

  • India needs to turn attention immediately on the issue of cybersecurity.
  • India needs to take both domestic and global efforts in this regard.
  • India should be an active participant in shaping and defining cyber norms.
  • India can also consider acceding to the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe (Budapest Convention).
  • There should be increasing participation and engagement in multi-stakeholder orientations as the Paris Call for trust and security in cyberspace.

5.5 India and domestic Efforts

  • There should be more clarity on legislation on data protection.
  • The private sector in India should be encouraged to participate increasingly in industry-focused processes such as the Microsoft-initiated Cybersecurity Tech Accord and the Siemens-led Charter of Trust.

6. CONCLUSION

Present there is a huge digital divide in India. However, the coming future is going to bridge this gap and India is expected to have a major portion of the next billion smartphones.

Therefore, it is imperative that cybersecurity is going to play a large role in the lives of Indians.

To prepare for the larger role of cyberspace in India, we need to work on a deeper public understanding of cyberspace, cybersecurity and its various dimensions.

Given the size and scope of cyberspace in India, it is too important to be left only to the experts.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In)

  • CERT-In is a functional organization under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India.
  • CERT-In is the national nodal agency to deal with cybersecurity incidents.
  • The CERT-In was established in 2004.
  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 has provided for the following functions to be undertaken by CERT-In and has designated it to serve as the national nodal agency:
    • Collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber incidents.
    • Forecast and alerts of cybersecurity incidents
    • Emergency measures for handling cybersecurity incidents
    • Coordination of cyber incident response activities.
    • Issue guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes and whitepapers relating to information security practices, procedures, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents.
    • Such other functions relating to cybersecurity as may be prescribed.

The power of democracy and the challenge from big tech

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently, four of the United States' big tech companies viz. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google appeared before the US Congress Antitrust Subcommittee to defend their business practices.

This editorial analyses the challenge from big tech companies and the power of democracy to address those challenges.

2. BIG-TECH HEARING AND DEMOCRACY

2.1 The giant four

  • The four companies in question have a combined market capitalization of $5 trillion, which is twice India's GDP.
  • The leaders of the four companies were confronted by the US Congress Antitrust Subcommittee, for
    • using their market power to crush competitors
    • amassing data and customers to realize the sky-high profit
  • All four executives testified virtually at the 'big tech hearing'.

2.2 The power of democracy

  • The 'big tech hearing' reflected the power of the US Congress as a co-equal branch of government in a presidential system.
  • The four CEOs viz. Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos who are technology and management behemoths in their own right behaved with the utmost deference, being aware of the power of the US Congress to affect their businesses through acts and new regulations.

3. UNIQUE DISPLAY OF BIPARTISANSHIP

Both, the Republicans and the Democrats criticized the companies in a unique display of 'bipartisanship', albeit for different reasons.

3.1 Criticism from Democrats

  • The Democrats criticized the tech giants for:
    • monopolistic practices
    • buying up potential rivals
    • disadvantaging competitors on their platforms
    • impacting small business negatively
    • using data generated by rivals for developing their own competing products
    • deriving profit from user data, often without explicit consent
    • not paying for news content carried on their sites

3.2 Criticism from Republican

  • The Republican criticism of the tech giants focused on:
    • perceived censorship of conservative viewpoints - these tech giants was perceived to be influenced by Left-of-Centre views of their employees
    • A case in point is the incident at Google when it backed out from participating in Project Maven of the Pentagon at one stage.
    • The reason for walking back by Google was backlash faced from the employees since the project involved of the use of AI for drone strikes.
    • Furthermore, Facebook was criticized for not taking enough measures to keep a check on the proliferation of fake accounts which are to the tune of nearly 6.5 billion every year as investors and advertisers are lured by the user base

3.3 Remarks by David Cicilline

  • The chairman of the subcommittee, David Cicilline, held that "these companies are so central to our modern life, their business practices and decisions have an outsized effect on our economy and our democracy. Any single action by any one of these companies can affect hundreds of millions of us in profound and lasting ways....Their ability to dictate terms, call the shots, upend entire sectors, and inspire fear represent the powers of a private government".
  • Cicilline concluded by saying that these tech giants wield unacceptable power and there is an urgent need to break up these companies or further regulate them.
  • Instances from the bygone times were cited to illustrate how the Rockefellers and Carnegies of yore had used their monopoly to extract huge profits and trample competition.

4. WHAT IS THE DEBATE ABOUT?

4.1 Need of further regulation

  • Today, there is an urgent need to put more regulations on these tech giants, especially on their data usage practices.
  • The debate around the use of data by these technology behemoths has been centered around privacy, but now has gone beyond privacy and there are talks on putting bulk anonymized data tin the public domain for competitor use and to stimulate innovation.

4.2 Similar debate in India

  • A similar debate regarding non-personal data and its use for a public purpose beyond private profit and market power of the data aggregator is presently underway in India as well.
  • There could be opportunities for Indian companies as well in case there is an attempt to unravel some of the acquisitions of these companies.
  • The restrictions put on Amazon from using the competitor data from its platform is very similar to the restrictions put on Amazon in India on its inventory-based model.

4.3 Measures taken by other countries

  • Other countries are also taking various measures on the issue, some of which include:
  • Australia
    • Australia has granted three months to Google and Facebook to negotiate with Australian media regarding fair pay for news content.
  • There are several measures being considered in Europe as well. Some of which are:
    • making the preferential treatment given by Amazon and Apple to their own products an illegal act
    • mandating Google to share search data with smaller competitors
    • requiring Facebook to make its services work more easily with rival social networks
    • levying a digital tax on the tech giants to enable a revenue for government and society where data is being generated and then using it to earn profit

5. PROLIFERATING CYBERSPACE

51. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic

  • The concerns regarding data privacy, data security and unfair business practices are much more relevant today.
  • This is because, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital space in making further inroads in our daily lives.
  • Given the increased role of cyberspace and digital in public life, it is very likely that the power of there companies will come under further scrutiny.

5.2 Underlying personal interest

  • The probability further increases as Europe will want to promote competition through its own champions.
  • China will also need to assess the impact on its own companies, as there is an increased debate on security and data privacy challenges globally.

5.3 Breaking up – not an easy task

  • However, breaking up these companies or putting them under effective and strict control and regulation is not going to be an easy task because:
    • these companies have a tremendous power of lobbying Congressmen and Senators and
    • these companies will make a case for the need for size and flexibility to meet the challenges thrown by Chinese companies who have the backing of their government
    • many regulations that were imposed on banks and financial companies in the US aim the wake of 2008 financial crisis have slowly been eased out

5.4 Need of national champions

  • There are talks in India as well, of the need of national champions across the sector to address the competition from China, South Korea, the US, Europe and others.
  • While there is a definite need of indigenous tech giants, this needs to be balanced by ensuring :
    • the due power to the consumer
    • space for the innovator
    • due diligence by elected representatives.

6. CONCLUSION

The 'Big tech hearing' has shown the true power of democracy.

It has also shown that despite the technological and financial dominance of these tech giants, smaller businesses and consumers have the power to make their voices and concerns heard through their representatives.

Source: Money Control

Destination Mars

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS 

Recently on 30 July 2020, NASA launched its latest rover to Mars named Perseverance under the ‘Mars 2020’ Mars rover mission.

This editorial discusses NASA’s previous rovers to Mars and the new features in this the fourth-generation rover.

The editorial also explores the recent interest in Mars.

2. NASA AND MARS EXPLORATION

2.1 A brief history

  • NASA's first rover mission to Mars began about 23 years ago in 1997 with the Pathfinder Mission in which the Sojourner rover drove on the Martian Soil for the first time.
  • The success of Mars Pathfinder changed the subsequent history of Mars Exploration.
  • Consequently, NASA sent twin rovers to Mars in 2003 named Spirit and Opportunity, followed by rover Curiosity in 2012.

2.2 Mars Pathfinder Mission

  • Mars Pathfinder was a technology demonstration mission.
  • It was put together on a very tight budget and many had thought that it would fail.
  • However, its success changed the due course of Mars Exploration in the years to come.
  • It was designed to demonstrate the delivery of a lander (Carl Sagan Memorial Station) and a free-ranging robotic rover (Sojourner rover) on Martian surface in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

3. NASA ROVERS

3.1 Significance of Rovers

  • Rovers are very helpful in studying the local area in a much higher resolution than can be done from an orbiting spacecraft.
  • Additionally, rovers carry a suite of instruments ranging from drills to spectrometers to microscopic imagers.
  • These complex scientific instruments are very helpful in understanding the local geology in a manner similar to a field geologist studying rocks on Earth.
  • Furthermore, beginning with Spirit and Opportunity, rovers have also acted as mobile weather stations on Mars.
  • These rovers continuously monitor changes in the Martian atmosphere for many years.

3.2 Instrument suite

  • NASA has added new capabilities and different instrument suite to explore new scientific frontiers with subsequent generation of rovers.
  • A drill was added in Spirit and Opportunity while additions for Curiosity included
    • a mass spectrometer
    • an instrument to measure isotopes of different elements
  • NASA has continued the tradition of enhancing instrument suite with the launch of its fourth generation Mars rover, the Mars Perseverance.

3.3 Size of the rovers

  • While the Sojourner rover lasted for 83 days, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity lasted for 6 and 15 years respectively setting up new paradigm of a long-term robotic presence on Mars.
  • The Curiosity rover, landing in 2012 continues to operate even today.
  • The count and complexity of the scientific instruments increased with the subsequent generation on rovers.
  • At a couple of feet in length and width, Sojourner was a small rover.
  • On the other hand, rovers Spirit and Opportunity were about the size of a golf cart and Curiosity and Perseverance are the size of a small car.

4. WHAT’S NEW IN MARS PERSEVERANCE

  • Going forward with the tradition of enhancing capabilities and instrument suits in its subsequent generation of rovers, NASA has added the following new capabilities in Mars Perseverance:

4.1 Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)

  • It is a unique instrument, which will for the first time, manufacture molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere of Mars.
  • NASA is increasingly pushing for In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), which is the use of local resources to meet the requirements of the spacecraft or human needs.
  • Without ISRU, the future explorations of MARS will become very expensive rendering it impossible.
  • Carrying Oxygen or water or rocket fuel for a two-year journey to Mars and back will be incredibly expensive.

4.2 Manufacturing oxygen on Mars

  • Successful extraction of oxygen on Mars itself will have two direct advantages:
    • The oxygen can be used for human exploration of Mars.
    • The oxygen can be used for manufacturing rocket fuel for the return journey.
  • Hence, the successful technology demonstration of MOXIE would allow NASA to scale up oxygen generation rate per day for MOXIE by a hundred times very easily.
  • This could be of tremendous significance to future human mission to Mars.

4.3 Ingenuity

  • The second addition to Mars Perseverance is 'Ingenuity', which will become the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars.
  • This is going to be the first time when NASA will fly a helicopter on another planet or satellite.
  • Tasked with the challenge of flying a helicopter in the thin atmosphere of Mars, Ingenuity is also a technology demonstration.
  • Helicopter 'Ingenuity' will help in rover drive planning and in fetching samples from places where the rover reach or safely drive to, in a similar fashion as drones are used on Earth.
  • Successful demonstration of this technology will lead to an increased role for such helicopters in future missions.

4.4 Biosignatures

  • Third and the most important enhancement in Mars Perseverance is that it is the first planned trip to bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth.
  • The goal of analysis is to look for biosignatures or signatures of present or past life on Mars.
  • Perseverance is supposed to collect the rock samples and NASA will plan a second rover mission within a decade to transport the rock sample back to the Earth.
  • The analysis of the rocks from Mars are also likely to provide a reliable indication of feasibility of life on Mars in the past or at present.

5. THE FASCINATION WITH MARS

5.1 Near-term interest in Mars

  • Located at a distance of around 200 million km from Earth, Mars is a fascinating planet for humankind.
  • Mars had liquid water and an atmosphere in the distant past probably supported life as well.
  • Given the location and nature of the planet Mars, humans can aspire to visit or stay at Mars for longer duration.

5.2 Human Exploration of Mars

  • However, the near term increase in the interest in Mars is due to plans of commercial travels to the planet by Elon Musk.
  • Space agencies around the world including NASA have aspired for a human mission to Mars.
  • A man-mission to Mars is technologically possible.
  • However, the cost of such a mission is estimated to be to the tune of $500 billion, which is 20 times the budget of NASA.
  • Therefore, a man mission to Mars by NASA is largely aspirational due to lack of funding.

6. WAY AHEAD - POSSIBILITY OF HUMAN EXPLORATION

6.1 A feasible plan by Musk

  • Elon Musk has unveiled a new architecture for the journey to Mars.
  • Musk envisions a combination of cost saving measures as:
    • reusable launch vehicles
    • in-orbit refuelling
    • manufacturing rocket fuel on Mars
  • This will reduce the cost of the journey to Mars down by 1/1000th making the price per passenger for the journey to Mars on Musk's Starship Spaceship in the order of $200,000 or Rs 1.5 crore.

6.2 The Starship Spacecraft

  • The Starship Spacecraft launch vehicle is at the center of Musk's plan.
  • With the capability of transporting 100 metric tonnes to Earth Orbit, the Starship Spacecraft is the most powerful launch vehicle ever built.
  • SpaceX (American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation Services Company founded by Elon Musk) has scheduled to fly around the Moon with its first private passenger in 2023 and has an ambitious aim of a crewed mission to Mars by 2024.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 

Mars Rovers by NASA

Mars Pathfinder

  • Launch Date - 4 December 1996
  • Mars Pathfinder consisted of a lander and the Sojourner rover.
  • It returned an unprecedented amount of data as the lander and rover explored an ancient flood plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars known as Ares Vallis.
  • This was largely a technology demonstration mission.

Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity)

  • Spirit - Launch date - 10 Jun 2003 and Landing date - 3 Jan 2004
  • Opportunity Launch date - 7 July 2003 and Landing date - 24 Jan 24 2004
  • These powerful rovers are still on the red planet and had a greater mobility than the 1997 Mars Pathfinder rover had.
  • The goal of these rovers was to look for evidences of liquid water that might have been present in the past on the planet surface.
  • The identical rovers are exploring different regions of Mars.

Curiosity Rover

  • The car sized rover Curiosity was designed as a part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Mission (MSL).
  • It landed on Aeolis Palus inside Gale on Mars and explored the Gale Crater on Mars.
  • Launch date - 26 November 2011
  • Landing date - 6 August 2012.
  • The objectives of the rover included
    • investigation of climate and geology of Mars
    • investigate if past conditions on Mars were favourable for microbial life
    • role of water on life
    • habitability studies on Mars in preparation for human exploration

Source: Indian Express

A quest for order amid cyber insecurity

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

 

The present time is both, the best and worst for cyberspace.

Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have amassed over a trillion dollars in market value since the beginning of the year 2020.

However, on the other hand, cyber-attacks have grown as well.

2. INCREASING CYBER-INSECURITY

2.1 Increasing malwares

  • A report puts the number of daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 to over 18 million in a single week in April 2020 monitored by a single email provider.
  • This was in addition to more than 240 million COVID-19-related daily spam messages.
  • Twitter hackers and ransomware targets too are increasing by the day.

2.2 Cyber-attacks and States

  • Concerns about the role of states in cyber-attack are also surfacing as mentioned by Australia.
  • There are also allegations on China regarding hacking health-care institutions in the U.S. doing research on COVID-19 treatment.
  • The United Kingdom has warned Russian state-backed hackers targeting pharmaceutical companies working on the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • India has recently banned specified Chinese Apps stating that they are “engaged in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
  • This act of the Indian Government adds another layer of complexity to the contestation in cyberspace.
  • Therefore, clearly the cyber insecurity of individuals, organizations, and states is expanding amidst the COVID-19 atmosphere.

2.3 Better understanding of Global Cyberspace

  • The world is increasingly moving in the digital space. People are adapting to new ways of digital interaction and an increasing number of critical infrastructure is turning digital.
  • However, despite the accelerated pace towards digital technologies, most of us do not understand the parameters of the transformation towards digital.
  • Much like the global public health, cybersecurity too is considered a niche area and is left to the experts.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of the global public health infrastructure and the need to abide by agreed rules.
  • On similar lines, a better understanding of the global cyberspace architecture is also imperative.

3. NO GLOBAL COMMONS

3.1 The global commons

  • International law identifies four global commons viz. the High Seas, the Atmosphere, Antarctica and the Outer Space.
  • The borderless global cyberspace is also considered a part of the “global commons”, however experts are of the view that it does not exist.

3.2 Border control on cyberspace

  • The view of cyberspace in terms of connectivity across national boundaries is an illusion.
  • Since the internet is dependent on the physical infrastructure that is under national control, the internet too is subjected to border control.
  • States control the national networks through laws in accordance with their international commitments.

3.3 Responsibility of States vis-a-vis cyberspace

  • States are also responsible for the following:
    • Ensuring cybersecurity,
    • Enforcing laws related to cyberspace
    • Protection of public good
  • Apart from their own actions, States are also responsible for actions taken from within their sovereign territory.
  • However, the implementation of the States' responsibilities towards cyberspace is difficult, since the infrastructure on which the Internet is dependent, falls within the jurisdictions of multiple states.
  • These states have different approaches towards the view of cyberspace and cybersecurity.

3.4 Multiple Stakeholders

  • There are multiple stakeholders in the cyberspace including both states and non-state actors.
  • The non-state actors play key roles with both benign and malignant intentions.
  • Furthermore, some networks are private which have different objectives than the states have.
  • At last, the cyber tools too have dual use, cheap and make attribution and verification of actions quite a task.

3.5 Developing cyber norms

  • Despite the presence of both state and non-state actors, only the states have the right of oversight.
  • There is no single authority for the global cyberspace like the World Health Organization, which can monitor, assess, advise and inform about the fulfillment of state commitments, in however limited or unsatisfactory a manner.
  • To put it simply we are still searching for the cyber "rules of the road".
  • Presently we are in the developing stage of “cyber norms” that can provide a balance between the competing demands of national sovereignty and transnational connectivity.

4. GAPS IN CURRENT PROCESSES

4.1 UN and Cybersecurity

  • In 1998, Russia raised the issue of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in international security on the UN agenda.
  • Since then, six Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) with two-year terms and limited membership have been working on the issue.
  • In addition to the GGE, last year, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) began working on the same issue with similar mandates. The group is open to all and many states have shown interest in the group.
  • A report is expected by the next year.

4.2 Discussions in the group

  • The discussions are focussed narrowly in line with the mandate.
  • Issues that have been kept out are:
    • Internet governance
    • Development
    • Espionage
    • Digital privacy
  • Issues like terrorism and crime are acknowledged as important but the discussions on these topics are not as thoroughly done as in other UN bodies.

4.3 Outcome of the UN Exercise

  • The net outcome of the UN exercise on cyberspace is the acceptance that international law and the UN Charter applies to cyberspace as well.
  • On these lines, a set of voluntary norms of responsible state behavior was agreed to in 2015.
  • However, the aspects are circumstances in which the international law will be applicable have still not been addressed and various reports on the matter call for action including the recent report by UN Secretary-General AntónioGuterres’s entitled “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation”.
  • However, given the present geopolitical circumstances, there is very little hope of such processes being undertaken.

5. MORE ENGAGEMENT NEEDED

5.1 Expanding cyberspace in India

  • Generally speaking, technologies move faster and are ahead of the development of associated norms and institutions, similar is the case with cyberspace.
  • This provides India the opportunity with the time and space to develop our approach in tune with the relevance of cyberspace to India's future economic, social, and political objectives.
  • Despite the digital divide, India’s cyber footprint is expanding at an accelerated rate and therefore the rate of conflicts and crimes will increase too.
  • Under these circumstances, the Shared “rules of the road” become imperative.

5.2 India and Cyber security

  • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is a very active nodal agency for cybersecurity.
  • Five of the six GGEs formed had representatives from India.
  • India is also an active participant at the OEWG.
  • India is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which has also shown support for a code of conduct.
  • India also joined the Christchurch Call, which brought countries and corporations together on order for an increased effort in stopping the use of social media for promoting terrorism and violent extremism.

5.3 Need of active engagements

  • The cyberspace is becoming an increasingly contested and fragmented domain.
  • Going forward, the issue of cybersecurity will require better arrangements and more intense partnerships with additional safeguards.

5.4 India and Global Efforts

  • India needs to turn its attention immediately on the issue of cybersecurity.
  • India needs to take both domestic and global efforts in this regard.
  • India should be an active participant in shaping and defining cyber norms.
  • India can also consider acceding to the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe (Budapest Convention).
  • There should be increasing participation and engagement in multi-stakeholder orientations as the Paris Call for trust and security in cyberspace.

5.5 India and domestic Efforts

  • There should be more clarity on legislation on data protection.
  • The private sector in India should be encouraged to participate increasingly in industry-focused processes such as the Microsoft-initiated Cybersecurity Tech Accord and the Siemens-led Charter of Trust.

6. CONCLUSION

Present there is a huge digital divide in India. However, the coming future is going to bridge this gap, and India is expected to have a major portion of the next billion smartphones.

Therefore, it is imperative that cybersecurity is going to play a large role in the lives of Indians.

To prepare for the larger role of cyberspace in India, we need to work on a deeper public understanding of cyberspace, cyber security, and its various dimensions.

Given the size and scope of cyberspace in India, it is too important to be left only to the experts.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In)

  • CERT-In is a functional organization under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India.
  • CERT-In is the national nodal agency to deal with cyber security incidents.
  • The CERT-In was established in 2004.
  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 has provided for the following functions to be undertaken by CERT-In and has designated it to serve as the national nodal agency:
    • Collection, analysis, and dissemination of information on cyber incidents.
    • Forecast and alerts of cyber security incidents
    • Emergency measures for handling cyber security incidents
    • Coordination of cyber incident response activities.
    • Issue guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes, and whitepapers relating to information security practices, procedures, prevention, response, and reporting of cyber incidents.
    • Such other functions relating to cyber security as may be prescribed.

Source: The Hindu

August 15 launch for Covaxin

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently the head of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) wrote to all the 12 trials for the Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Covaxin, asking to complete all the clinical trials by August 15, which is the date set for the public launch of Covaxin.

This editorial discusses various aspects of the development of a vaccine.

2. ABOUT COVAXIN

2.1 What is Covaxin?

  • Covixin is a potential candidate for the COVID-19 vaccine. It has been developed by the company Bharat Biotech India (BBIL) in collaboration with ICMR’s National Institute of Virology (NIV).
  • It is an “inactivated” vaccine, which means it is made up of particles of killed Covid-19 virus rendering them unable to infect or replicate.
  • When a specific dose of these particles is injected in a person, it stimulates the body to produce antibodies against the deadly virus thereby building immunity against the virus.

2.2 Details regarding Launch of Covaxin

  • The ICMR aims to make Covaxin available for public use by August 15.
  • For achieving this, the ICMR Head has written to the 12 trial sites to make sure that 'all' clinical trials are completed within time.
  • For achieving this, the ICMR head has directed BBIL to complete enrolment of trial participants a week before BBIL had initially planned.

2.3 Is the August 15 launch achievable?

  • Generally, a vaccine goes through three phases of human trials.
  • Until now the approvals have been given only for phase I and II trials by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation.
  • It its application submitted to Clinical Trials Registry of India (CTRI), BBIL had estimated phase I and II trials to take fifteen months including at least a month for phase I alone.
  • Experts have raised doubts over the successful completion of all three phases within a month and a half.
  • Even most ambitious companies that are already in advanced stages of development of the COVID-19 vaccine have a longer timeframe.
  • Bioethics experts are deeply concerned that the development of vaccines should not be done at the cost of efficacy and safety.

3. OTHER TYPE OF VACCINE CANDIDATES FOR COVID-19

3.1 Non-replicating viral vector

  • Some viruses as the SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2) has a spike on its surface called the ‘spike protein’, which the virus uses to enter and infect cells and multiply.
  • In a non-replicating viral vector vaccine, the Covid-19 spike protein is modified so that it does not replicate and is then delivered in the human body using a weakened version of a different virus.
  • The body sees the spike protein as an antigen and builds immunity against it so that it can attack the real virus if it tries to infect the body.
  • An antigen is any foreign object (mostly toxins) that stimulates an immune response in the body most importantly the production of antibodies. 
  • Antibodies are used by the immune system to neutralize the antigens.
  • A COVID-19 vaccine candidate of this type being tested by the University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca.
  • The vaccine uses the ChAdOx1 virus (a weakened version of a common cold virus infecting chimpanzees).
  • The Vaccine is already in phase III and on the earliest will only be available towards the end of this year.

3.2 RNA vaccine

  • This type of vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that direct the cells to build specific types of protein.
  • For the COVID-19 vaccine, the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule is coded to direct the cells to build the molecular structure present on the surface of SARS-Cov-2.
  • The immune system will recognize this as an antigen and build antibodies against it, thereby building immunity.
  • Moderna has developed an mRNA vaccine in collaboration with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The phase III trials of this vaccine are expected to start this month.
  • Pfizer (in collaboration with Germany’s BioNTech) has been giving patients its experimental RNA vaccine at low- and mid-level doses and a launch could be made by the end of the year.

3.3 DNA vaccine

  • This type of vaccine uses genetically engineered DNA molecules coded with an antigen.
  • The body recognizes this antigen and develops an immune response against it producing antibodies developing immunity.
  • Inovio Pharmaceuticals is developing a DNA vaccine named INO-4800 in collaboration with the International Vaccine Institute which has shown positive results in phase I trials.

4. DEVELOPMENT OF A VACCINE

4.1 Time required to develop a vaccine

  • There is no fixed time period for the development process of a vaccine but the process could take decades and still yield no result.
  • An important case being the vaccine for HIV, which is still in phase III of clinical trials even after thirty years of research.
  • One of the fastest developed vaccines was for mumps, which got approval within four years after beginning the trials in 1963.
  • In March this year, Antony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Committee that it was not possible to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 before a year or a year and a half and even this ambitious target would require emergency authorization by regulators.

5. STATES OF DEVELOPMENT OF A VACCINE

Generally, a vaccine is developed and tested over a number of stages which have been fast-tracked in various ways for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The stages are:

Stage I: Research and Development

  • This stage generally takes 2 - 4 years but for Covid-19 this stage has progressed very fast due to two reasons.
  • One, Chinese researchers shared the genetic sequence of the coronavirus in January itself, and there are a large number of candidates based on the virus's genetic code instead of its protein.
  • Second, the use of new technologies like m-RNA technology, which injects genetic instructions to human cells directing them to create proteins to fight the virus. However, the technology is still unproven.

Stage II: Pre-clinical Trials

  • This stage generally takes 2 - 3 years.
  • In this stage, scientists test the vaccine on cell cultures and animals. This stage is done before testing the vaccine on humans.
  • In Pre-clinical Trials first, the virus is inactivated and parts of its genetic sequence are pulled out and checked if they stimulate any immune response.
  • This is intended to check if the vaccine candidate continues to harm the cell.
  • In the absence of an immune response or if the vaccine candidate harms the animals, researchers return to phase I.
  • By performing various sub-stages simultaneously, this stage has been shortened for Covid-19.
  • However, the majority of vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are still in the pre-clinical stage.

Stage III: Clinical trials

  • Regulators permit for human testing based on data submitted from the pre-clinical trials.
  • Only a few candidates enter this stage. This stage consists of three phases and usually takes more than 90 months.
    • PHASE I: The vaccine is delivered to a small group of people and antibodies in their blood are measure. This takes about three months.
    • PHASE II: If phase I is successful, scientists move to phase II. In this phase, the vaccine is delivered to several hundred people and three aspects are evaluated.
      1. reactogenicity (ability to produce common, adverse reactions)
      2. immunogenicity (ability to provoke an immune response) and
      3. safety
    • To compare the working of the vaccine under different variables a control is also used.
    • For Covid-19 vaccine development, this stage has been shortened like Moderna, which took just 63 days to reach clinical trials.
  • PHASE III: In the last phase of clinical trials, the vaccine is delivered to thousands of people.
    • This usually takes 6-8 months.
    • This phase assesses the working of the vaccine in larger populations.

Stage IV: Regulatory review

  • The manufacturer submits the data of the clinical trials to receive a licence. This stage is usually fast-tracked during emergencies.

Stage V: Manufacturing

  • Manufacturing of vaccines requires immense resources like funds to the tune of millions of dollars, infrastructure, raw material, and scientific expertise.

Stage VI: Quality control

  • In this stage, both the regulator and the manufacturer monitor the safety of the vaccine.

7. CONCLUSION

This development of Covaxin is indeed a necessity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the high cost of medical services, a nationally developed vaccine will be a huge relief.

While the intention of ICMR to develop the vaccine in record time is laudable, at the same time, the concerns of bioethics experts about crunching all the three phases of clinical trials within a month when human trials are yet to begin is equally important.

Efficacy and safety issues should not be ignored in any case.

Source: Indian Express