The Union Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has declared IT resources of ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and UPI managing entity NPCI as ‘critical information infrastructure’.


What is critical information infrastructure?

  • The Information Technology Act of 2000 defines “Critical Information Infrastructure” as a “computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which shall have debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety”.
  • The government, under the Act, has the power to declare any data, database, IT network or communications infrastructure as CII to protect that digital asset.
  • Any person who secures access or attempts to secure access to a protected system in violation of the law can be punished with a jail term of up to 10 years.


Why is CII classification and protection necessary?

  • On October 12, 2020 as India battled the pandemic, the electric grid supply to Mumbai suddenly snapped hitting the mega city’s hospitals, trains and businesses. Later, a study by a US firm that looks into the use of the internet by states, claimed that this power outage could have been a cyber attack, allegedly from a China-linked group, aimed at critical infrastructure. The government, however, was quick to deny any cyber attack in Mumbai.
  • But the incident underlined the possibility of hostile state and non-state actors probing internet-dependent critical systems in other countries, and the necessity to fortify such assets.


How are CIIs protected in India?

  • Created in January 2014, the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is the nodal agency for taking all measures to protect the nation’s critical information infrastructure.
  • It is mandated to guard CIIs from “unauthorised access, modification, use, disclosure, disruption, incapacitation or distraction”.
  • NCIIPC monitors and forecasts national-level threats to CII for policy guidance, expertise sharing and situational awareness for early warning or alerts. The basic responsibility for protecting the CII system shall lie with the agency running that CII.