The US Consulate General Kolkata has joined hands with CUTS International to combat cyber security threats for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Northeast.

With an aim to equip the MSMEs with knowledge and hands-on training on how to identify and combat cyber security threats and be more cyber-resilient, the CUTS International in collaboration with US Consulate General organized a day-long workshop in Guwahati, said a statement.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Northeast Council, and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) have also partnered with US Consulate General Kolkata and CUTS International.

Representatives from various MSME units in Guwahati participated in the workshop that is a part of the project titled “Cyber Safe East India”, implemented across the East and Northeast India.

Melinda Pavek, U.S. Consul General in Kolkata and several top Assam govt officials attended the inaugural session of the workshop.

During her first visit to Assam, U.S. Consul General Melinda Pavek said, “This Cybersecurity Awareness Month we recommit to doing our part to secure and protect our internet-connected devices, technology, and networks from cyberthreats at work, home, business, school, and anywhere else we connect online.”

“The United States and India are committed to continued partnership on cybersecurity, to include efforts to promote critical infrastructure resilience, collaboration to counter cyber-enabled crime such as ransomware, and cooperation to address shared cyber threats, including through workforce development, and exploring common cyber standards and promoting secure software development,” Pavek said.

With growing digitalization globally, more and more businesses are gradually shifting to a digital platform to do business.

Media reports show that there has been a concomitant rise in cybercrimes.

Cyberattacks through Malware, Phishing, Ransomware, etc. have surged.

According to a recent survey by Kaspersky, about 48 percent of MSMEs have had data breaches owing to not properly understanding threats and the importance of cybersecurity in the MSME sector.

The U.S. Consulate Kolkata has thus partnered with CUTS international to help the East and Northeast Indian MSME sector to cope with the growing threat of cyber-crimes for e-businesses since many companies have moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, mentioned that the adoption of digital technologies has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many MSMEs went online without the required understanding and safeguards to combat cyber-attacks, rendering them vulnerable.

Given that MSMEs make up roughly 30% of India’s GDP, it is imperative to equip them with the knowledge and tools to become resilient to cyber security breaches and grow their businesses sustainably.

Biswajit Chakrabarty, Director, FICCI, Northeast Council, mentioned that while the COVID-19 pandemic has created considerable challenges for MSMEs, it has also created an opportunity for them to expand their business via online platforms.

However, cybersecurity remains an area of serious concern for MSMEs. MSME vulnerabilities stem from several factors, such as lack of understanding of cybersecurity risks; less prioritization for cyber safety; limited capital allocation to cybersecurity, etc. It is important to bridge these gaps by imparting the required skills and knowledge on how to react when faced with cyber security breaches.

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