Cyber Review - March 2024
Anurag Sharma, Senior Research Associate, VIF


Cabinet approved over ₹10,300 Crores for “IndiaAI” programme

The Cabinet, on 07 March, approved an allocation of over ₹10,300 Crores for the “IndiaAI” mission as a significant step towards encouraging Bharat’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) ecosystem. Over the next five years, the financial infusion is poised to catalyst various components of the Mission, including essential initiatives such as IndiaAI Computer Capacity, IndiaAI Innovation Centre (IAIC), IndiaAI Datasets Platform (IADP), IndiaAI Future Skills, IndiaAI Startup Financing, and Safe & Trusted AI.

AI is going to be the kinetic enabler for India’s digital economy. Prime Minister Modi ji has always said that India is going to fully exploit the power of AI for the benefit of its citizens and for the expansion of its economy. I am grateful and thankful to the Hon’ble PM for the approval of more than 10,000 Crores for the India AI program, which will catalyse India’s AI ecosystem and position it as a force shaping the future of AI for India and for the world,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Jal Shakti. [1]

Minister of State for E&IT inaugurated Bharat’s first FutureLABS centre at C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram

On 12 March, the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (E&IT), Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Jal Shakti— Rajeev Chandrasekhar inaugurated Bharat’s first FutureLABS centre— “Centre for Semiconductor Chips & Systems for Strategic Electronics” in C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The Centre will play a crucial role in catalysing an ecosystem for next generation chip design, manufacturing and research. “You have seen the amount of silicon in Chandrayaan 3 and electronics in INS Vikrant, both have deep roots in Kerala. The idea of FutureLABS is really a partnership between CDAC as the government system, industry, students, start-ups, and academia. Three areas have great potential for Indian start-ups and students — AI, Semiconductors, and the future of electronics. CDAC will be a willing and facilitating partner to create these labs within colleges and universities. This initiative will make Thiruvananthapuram India’s next innovation hub,” said the minister. [2]

Made in India tech like DPI can be transformative for the world”: Bill Gates

On 30 March, after having a candid conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Microsoft’s co-founder and philanthropist— Bill Gates said that “technologies like Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) that are created in Bharat (India) can be transformative for the world. The technology is bridging the digital divide for millions of people in the country.” Bill Gates and PM Modi had conversation on array of topics ranging from Artificial Intelligence to healthcare and climate change.

According to a recent report of NASSCOM, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Aadhaar are poised to propel Bharat towards a USD 8 trillion economy by 2030, helping the nation achieve a USD 1 trillion digital economy target. [3]

YouTube failed to address disinformation about Bharatiya elections

According to an investigation carried out by the Human Rights group— Access Now and Global Witness, YouTube failed to detect manipulation and disinformation in dozens of fake political commercials created by academics to test the platform’s filtering of election-related content in Bharat. YouTube allowed 48 adverts in Hindi, English, and Telugu, all of which contained unconfirmed claims of election fraud, distortions about the voting process, and attacks on the process’ legitimacy.

According to the methodology applied, the adverts did not run online but were submitted by the researchers to YouTube for initial assessment. They deleted them from the platform once they had been vetted and authorised, so no one could see them while using the site. The ad content included false information on changes to the voting age, instructions to vote by text message, and incitement to prevent certain groups from voting. Bharat will hold its first general election since 2019 in seven phases between 19 April and 01 June of this year. Over 900 million registered voters are participating in this process. [4]

Bharat rescued 250 citizens from Cambodian “cyber slavery”

On 30 March, Bharat’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed media that it has rescued 250 citizens from Cambodia, who were enticed by job opportunities and later forced to carry out cyber-crimes, mainly financial frauds. “Our Embassy in Cambodia has been promptly responding to complaints from [Bharatiya] who were lured with employment opportunities to that country but were forced to undertake illegal cyber work. Collaborating closely with Cambodian authorities, it has rescued and repatriated about 250 [Bharatiya], of which 75 in just the last three months. We remain committed to helping all those [Bharatiya] in Cambodia who seek our support. We are also working with Cambodian authorities and with agencies in [Bharat] to crack down on those responsible for these fraudulent schemes,” read the statement released by the MEA.

Workers from all across Asia and the world have been enticed into scam compounds run by crime syndicates in Southeast Asia with fraudulent employment offers with high salary package. Upon arrival, they were compelled to engage in cyber fraud, including “pig slaughtering schemes”, in which fraudsters form relationships with victims online and push them into making poor investments. [5]


China-linked hackers targeted European politicians with cyber-attacks, claimed US.

On 25 March, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) issued an indictment saying that Chinese hackers with association with its Ministry of State Security (MSS), targeted “every European Union member” of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a coalition of lawmakers critical of China. According to the indictment, in 2021, Chinese hackers sent over 1000 e-mails to more than 400 unique individual accounts associated with the IPAC, to gather their digital data and internet activities. Around 66 EU lawmakers from national parliaments could be identified from IPAC’s website. IPAC members come from 12 EU countries as well as the United Kingdom (UK), Ukraine, and the United States.

The cyber-attacks were only brought to the attention of Samuel Cogolati, a Belgian Green MP and co-Chair of IPAC, in 2023, via an email from the Centre for Cyber Security Belgium. In the email, the Belgian cyber body said the hackers were part of APT31, the same group now hit by Britain’s fresh sanctions. [6]

Following phishing attack, New York City payroll website was down for a week

In response to a phishing attack targeting city employees, the New York City administration took its Payroll website partially offline for at least nine days. The website down left city’s around 300,000 full-time workers with limited access to essential official documents. On 02 April, the New York City Automated Personnel System, Employee Self Service (NYCAPS/ESS) site stated that “Due to scheduled maintenance, Internet ESS is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause.” Last month, the New York City’s cyber security division was made aware of a text message phishing campaign in which hackers tried to steal NYCAPS users’ personal information, said a spokesperson for the Office of Technology and Innovation. [7]

Pentagon outlined a strategy to boost defence industrial base cyber security

On 28 March, the US Pentagon released its first ever cyber security strategy to efficiently protect its massive industrial base from cyber-attackers. “As our adversaries continuously seek information about U.S. capabilities, the Department, in coordination with the DIB [Defense Industrial Base], must remain resilient against these attacks and succeed through teamwork to defend the nation,” said the Deputy Defense Secretary— Kathleen Hicks during the release of the Defense Industrial Base Cyber Security Strategy.

The document will serve as a road map for improving the cyber security and resiliency of the supply chain, which consists of hundreds of thousands of companies that contract directly with the Pentagon and its many components. The strategy, which spans fiscal years 2024 to 2027, includes four overarching targets, such as promoting best practices throughout the industrial base. Each aim has a subset of objectives, such as the ability to recover from a cyber-attack. [8]


[1] “Cabinet approves over ₹10,300 Crores for IndiaAI Mission”, Press Information Bureau-Ministry of Electronics and IT, 07 March 2024, available from:
[2] “Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar inaugurates India’s 1st FutureLABS centre at C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram”, Press Information Bureau- Ministry of Electronics & IT, 12 March 2024, available from:
[3] IANS. “Made in India tech like DPI can be transformative for the world: Bill Gates”, Economic Times, 31 March 2024, available from:
[4] Antoniuk, Daryna. “YouTube failed to block disinformation about Indian elections, researchers find”, The Record, 31 March 2024, available from:
[5] Antoniuk, Daryna. “India says it has rescued 250 citizens from Cambodian cyber slavery”, The Record, 01 April 2024, available from:
[6] Lau, Stuart and Paul De Villepin. “China targeted European lawmakers with cyberattacks, Washington says”, Politico, 27 March 2024, available from:
[7] Coltin, Jeff. “New York City payroll website has been down for a week, following phishing attack”, Politico, 02 April 2024, available from:
[8] Matishak, Martin. “Pentagon lays out strategy to improve defense industrial base cybersecurity”, The Record, 29 March 2024, available from: ; “Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity Strategy 2024”, US Department of Defense, March 2024, available from:

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