A new government order restrict employees from using third-party, non-government cloud platforms including Google Drive and Dropbox as well as virtual private network (VPN) services including NordVPN and ExpressVPN. The order passed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been circulated to all ministries and departments and all government employees are required to comply with the directive, Gadgets 360 has learnt. The new move by the government comes just weeks after directing VPN service providers and data centre companies to store their user data for up to five years.
Citing an increased number of cyberattacks and threat perception to the government, the 10-page document seen by Gadgets 360 ordered employees to "not upload or save any internal, restricted, confidential government data or files on any non-government cloud service (ex: Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)." The document is titled "Cyber Security Guidelines for Government Employees."
In addition to restricting employees from using the popular cloud services, the government instructed employees through its directive to not use any third-party anonymisation services and VPNs, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Tor, and proxies. Additionally, it directed the workforce to refrain from using "unauthorised remote administration tools" such as TeamViewer, AnyDesk, and Ammyy Admin, among others.
Government employees are also directed to not use any "external email services for official communication" and conduct "sensitive internal meetings and discussions" using "unauthorised third-party video conferencing or collaboration tools."
The government additionally ordered employees to not "use any external websites or cloud-based services for converting/ compressing a government document". It also directed the workforce to not use "any external mobile app-based scanner services" including CamScanner for "scanning internal government documents.
Notably, the government banned CamScanner in 2020 as a part of its initial move to restrict China-based apps in the country. Some government officials were, however, still being seen using the app for scanning physical copies of their official documents.
Alongside restricting the usage of certain apps, the government's order also directed employees to not 'jailbreak' or 'root' their mobile phones.
The directive also ordered employees to take measures including the use of complex passwords as well as updating passwords once in 45 days and updating operating system and BIOS firmware with the latest updates and security patches.
"All government employees, including temporary, contractual/ outsourced resources are required to strictly adhere to the guidelines mentioned in this document," the order said. "Any non-compliance may be acted upon by the respective CISOs/ department heads."
The order was released on June 10 after a couple of revisions in the original draft made by the NIC. It included inputs from India's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and was approved by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) secretary.
Gadgets 360 has reached out to Google, Dropbox, and other entities to get their comments on the government's directive. This article will be updated when the companies in question respond.
In late April, the CERT-In issued a directive to make its mandatory for VPN service providers, data centres, virtual private server (VPS) providers, and cloud service providers to keep user data for five years or even longer. The order will come into force from June 28.
As a result of that order, VPN service providers including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark have decided to remove their physical servers in the country as they follow no-log policies and are not technically capable of storing logs. The major VPN entities as well as some digital rights groups have also raised privacy concerns for users in storing their data.
Tech companies including Facebook and Google also warned that the rules made by CERT-In could create a frightening environment.
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