How India’s CoWIN healthcare app has kept Cyber Attackers at Bay

Image credit: Medical News today

The importance of cybersecurity holds significant importance in the healthcare sector, considering that it is tasked with secure records maintenance of a billion people.

According to a reports, in a cyber-attack in December 2020, data on the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was stolen and released online illegally. According to a BBC report, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that it handled a record 777 incidents between August 2020 and September 2021.

Its annual review said protecting the health sector has become an urgent priority over the period.

The NCSC also said that one in five incidents were aimed at organisations with links to health.

Johnson & Johnson experiences around 15.5 billion cybersecurity incidents each day, Marene Allison, Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Information Security Officer said during a cybersecurity executive forum hosted by The Wall Street Journal. The threat of cyber-attacks is real, and hence cybersecurity gains utmost importance

India with its 1 billion vaccinations, aided by CoWIN platform has so far done a commendable job in ensuring that vaccine services are not impacted. So, what has it got right?

“Digital vaccination certificate platforms must adhere to globally recommended security and privacy standards, such as, individual data privacy, integrity & availability, swift & trusted verification, user-friendly registration & issuance and cross-border acceptance.

In accordance with these guidelines, India’s DIVOC platform provides digitally signed QR-code-based electronic certificates for COVID vaccination that can be generated via a smartphone or downloaded from CoWIN’s platform, said Shubhi Rastogi, Associate Director, Data Security Practice, Happiest Minds Technologies.

Happiest Minds Technologies is an IT company, enabling digital transformation for enterprises and technology providers. Rastogi further added that factors such as data minimisation policy, protecting user data at rest, while in transit, and in use with appropriate data protection controls, encrypted data sharing with authorised third parties for specified purposes only and ensuring that collected user data is not misused to assure user privacy are also important.

Considering that DIVOC and CoWIN platforms can substantiate their claims regarding data privacy and security, it has the potential to scale up and emerge as a global platform for digital vaccination certificates that can be easily adapted across multiple countries, providing a trusted and hassle-free way to undergo cross-border travels.

Digital Healthcare

The Government of India launched the Digital India campaign in 2015 in a bid to transform the country into a knowledge economy, with on-the-go access to information, governance and services. Since then India has become the second-fastest adopter of digital services. With about half a billion internet users, the potential to unlock an additional economic value of $1 trillion dollars through inclusive growth is immense.

This is also true of the healthcare sector wherein blending the digital approach can help tackle the issues of access, affordability and quality. Such a health system also fits in with the idea of an all-in-all digital nation supported by missions like the Ayushman Bharat and Make in India, a Financial Express report added.

It further explained that digital health solutions are powered by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Adopting these with prevention, diagnosis and cure can help India run closer to the goal of digital health for all. For actionable impact, a digital health ecosystem must comprise digital technologies and access to the same as well.

Various healthcare startups are already making their way in this direction by providing patient-centric care at the comfort of their homes with the help of technology. It is now not only possible to monitor a person’s condition at home but also provide treatment therein. This fits well for the rising elderly population since they can stay away from hospital-acquired infections. Digital technology is also enabling remote monitoring in extreme situations like the pandemic.

“Government of India, at both the Central and State levels, are depending on and implementing modern technologies to create more systematic, sturdy and scalable solutions for citizens. In other words, eGov has altered how Indians interact with the Govt.

This ‘Digital India’ campaign is much ahead in its evolutionary path with every byte of personal information and data it collects, stores and processes. Although there are risks and vulnerabilities posed by open-source platforms, DIVOC (Digital Infrastructure for Vaccination Open Credentialing) is compliant with WHO’s Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates (DDCC) specifications and enables a secure way to access certificates.

The design ensures high trust, security and privacy aspects to remain intact while eliminating various potential frauds. “I believe such a sophisticated and secure platform is exactly what is needed to tackle the problems of data leaks, removing vulnerabilities and enabling large-scale vaccination programs,” said Anand Vaitheeswaran, Chief Information Officer (CIO), L&T Technology Services.

So far, CoWIN has got off to a flying start. Indian citizens are hoping that the positive start continues its golden run.

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