Sanjeev Relia says: Among the biggest challenges that India faces in the cyberspace today is the “Supply Chain Vulnerability”. A supply chain attack is an attack through subversion of supply chain. A product, typically a device that performs encryption or secures transactions, is tampered with during manufacture or while it is still in the supply chain by persons with physical access. The tampering may, for example, install a rootkit or hardware-based spying components.
Setting up our own manufacturing plants for fabricating critical ICs is the best way of ensuring that only clean hardware enters the markets in India. To achieve partial self-reliance, the Government of India in February 2014 approved establishment of two Semiconductor Wafer Fabrication Manufacturing Facilities in the country at a cost of approximately Rs 63,000 Crores. The first lab was to come up close to Greater Noida in collaboration of Jaiprakash Associates with IBM, USA and Tower Semiconductor Limited, Israel as partners and the second was to come up in Gujrat to be set up by HSMC Technologies in collaboration with ST Microelectronics and Silterra Malaysia as partners. However, as per a news report in the Times of India on 29 May 2015, both the units have hit a roadblock and the projects are likely to get delayed.
The delay in the setting of these two critical wafer plants not only will be a blow to the “Make in India” initiative of the government but also will have an impact on overall cyber security scenario in the country. With most hardware being imported and with virtually no facility to test what has been fitted inside the IT and telecom products being sold in the country, there is always a possibility of the manufacturer leaving a trapdoor or a freak bug in the hardware. This can result not only in loss of critical information but also can jeopardize the critical infrastructure of the country. With vital components being produced in India, the probability of supply chain vulnerabilities reduces tremendously.
It is therefore essential that all roadblocks which these two projects have hit are cleared on priority so that we are able to gain partial self-sufficiency in production of clean IT hardware.