What is the cyber security status of Bangladesh?

What is the cyber security status of Bangladesh?


11 min read

Bangladesh has seen rapid growth in technology adoption and internet penetration in recent years. The country has a sizable population of over 160 million people, with internet users numbering around 100 million as of 2021. Mobile phone subscriptions have skyrocketed, providing internet access to many. The government has prioritized digitization across sectors like finance, commerce, education and public services through initiatives like Digital Bangladesh.

As Bangladesh embraces the digital transformation, cyber security becomes paramount. With more activities and data shifting online, individuals, businesses and government entities face increased risks from cyber threats like hacking, malware, identity theft and cyber fraud. Robust cyber security measures are vital for safeguarding digital infrastructure, data privacy and online transactions.

This blog aims to provide an assessment of Bangladesh's current cyber security status and readiness. We will examine the existing cyber security policies, institutional framework, incident response mechanisms and challenges faced. The goal is to identify gaps and offer recommendations to strengthen Bangladesh's cyber security posture as it navigates the digital age.

Historical Context of Cyber Security in Bangladesh

Bangladesh was a relatively early adopter of internet technology in South Asia. The country connected to the global internet in 1996, facilitated by the Sustainable Development Networking Program (SDNP). Internet usage initially remained low but started growing rapidly in the 2000s with the entry of private internet service providers.

As internet penetration increased, Bangladesh faced emerging cyber security challenges. In the early days, threats were relatively unsophisticated like website defacements by rookie hackers. However, by the late 2000s, more organized cyber criminal groups surfaced, conducting financial crimes and cyber attacks. Bangladesh became a source of cyber attacks and malware attacks globally.

Recognizing cybersecurity as a priority, the government took several initiatives over the years:

  • Bangladesh Computer Security Incident Response Team (BGD e-Gov CIRT) established in 2008 to monitor and respond to cyber threats.

  • ICT Act 2006 amended in 2013 to include provisions criminalizing cyber crimes like hacking and identity theft.

  • National Cyber Security Strategy adopted in 2014, focused on developing cyber security capabilities.

  • Bangladesh Cyber Emergency Response Team (BdCERT) launched in 2021 for coordinating cyber incident responses nationwide.

While these were positive steps, Bangladesh still faced gaps in cyber security implementation and preparedness as digital transformation accelerated.

Current Cyber Security Challenges

Bangladesh continues to grapple with a range of cyber crimes perpetrated by domestic and international threat actors. Some key trends and statistics include:

  • Rising incidents of financial cyber crimes like credit card fraud, e-commerce scams and digital money laundering

  • Over 63,000 cyber crime cases reported to law enforcement in 2022, a 20% increase from 2021 (Bangladesh Police)

  • Bangladesh ranked as the 10th biggest source of malware attacks and botnet operations globally (Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, 2022)

Cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure like power grids, telecommunications and financial systems pose severe risks. Experts warn that Bangladesh's critical infrastructure faces potential vulnerabilities due to:

  • Legacy systems and outdated software/hardware still in use

  • Lack of robust security audits and penetration testing

  • Insufficient security protocols and insider threat protections

  • Limited cyber emergency response capabilities

A successful breach could cripple essential services and industries.

Bangladesh is also confronting new and sophisticated cyber threat vectors like:

Ransomware Attacks: Multiple government agencies and businesses were hit by ransomware in 2022, with hackers encrypting data and demanding crypto payments.

Phishing Scams: Phishing attacks continue rising, with fake emails/SMS targeting online consumers and harvesting banking credentials.

These emerging threats underscore the need to enhance cyber defenses, incident response and security awareness nationwide.

Government Initiatives and Regulations

Several government bodies play a role in overseeing and implementing cyber security measures:

  • Bangladesh Computer Incident Response Team (BGD e-Gov CIRT) under the Bangladesh Computer Council monitors cyber threats and coordinates cyber incident response.

  • Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is responsible for ensuring security of telecom networks and infrastructure.

  • Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Bangladesh Police has a Cyber Crime Unit to investigate cyber crimes.

  • Bangladesh Bank oversees cyber security of the banking and financial sector.

The legal framework governing cyber security includes:

  • The Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 (amended 2013) criminalizes cyber crimes like hacking, data theft and online defamation.

  • Bangladesh Computer Security Incident Response Team Regulation 2015 establishes BGD e-Gov CIRT's mandate.

  • Bangladesh Bank issued cyber security guidelines for banks and financial institutions in 2015.

However, the existing laws face criticism for being inadequate to address modern cyber threats comprehensively.

Bangladesh has partnered with various international bodies for cyber capacity building:

  • Member of ASEAN Regional Forum on Cyber Issues to promote cyber norms and confidence-building.

  • Collaborated with World Bank and UNICC on developing its National Cyber Security Strategy.

  • Partnered with ITU, APCERT and OIC-CERT for training, knowledge sharing and joint cyber drill exercises.

Such collaborations help Bangladesh access global best practices and boost cyber resilience.

Private Sector Response

The private sector has an increasingly vital role to play in strengthening Bangladesh's cyber defenses. Key contributions include:

  • Major telecoms like Grameenphone and Robi have dedicated cyber security operations centers to protect their networks.

  • Financial institutions like BRAC Bank invest in cyber security tools, ethical hacking and employee training programs.

  • Cyber security service providers like Sotenberg, Duaa and SquareTech offer security audits, penetration testing and incident response support.

  • E-commerce players like Chaldal prioritize secure payments and data protection for customers.

While data is limited, reports suggest Bangladesh's private sector cyber security spending has grown steadily in recent years as threat awareness increases. Areas of investment include:

  • Security infrastructure like firewalls, antivirus, DDoS mitigation systems

  • Employee cyber awareness campaigns and security skills development

  • Managed security services and security operations centers

  • Risk assessment, compliance audits and certification programs

However, businesses still face hurdles in bolstering cyber security postures:

  • Budget constraints for smaller companies to acquire advanced security tools

  • Shortage of cyber security professionals and skills gaps

  • Lack of board-level prioritization of cyber risk management

  • Regulatory gaps and lack of stronger cyber security standards/benchmarks

  • Limited information sharing on threats and best practices

Overcoming these challenges will require innovative approaches, public-private collaboration and leadership commitment to cyber resilience.

Capacity Building and Awareness Programs

To build a robust cyber security workforce, several education and professional training programs have been introduced:

  • Bangladesh University of Professionals offers a BSc in Cyber Security and cyber defense courses.

  • Military Institute of Science and Technology runs cyber security certification programs.

  • Private training institutes like Cyber Genius and DC Cyber provide specialized cyber security courses.

  • The government's "Skills for Employment Investment Program" includes cyber security skills development.

However, experts highlight the need to further expand quality cyber security education to meet industry demand.

Recognizing that human error contributes to many cyber breaches, authorities have initiated public cyber awareness efforts:

  • Bangladesh Police runs "CyberKids" to educate children on online safety and cyber ethics.

  • Telecoms and internet service providers disseminate cyber hygiene tips to customers periodically.

  • BGD e-Gov CIRT organizes an annual "Cyber Drill" involving public/private participation.

  • The ICT Division observes a "Cyber Security Awareness Month" with seminars and publicity drives.

Such initiatives aim to promote better cyber habits and security practices among the general public.

Bangladesh's academic institutions are increasingly involved in cyber security capacity building:

  • Universities like BUET, DU, CUET conduct cyber security research and offer relevant coursework.

  • Student cyber clubs and hacking competitions nurture youth interest in cyber disciplines.

  • Annual "Cyber Security Summit" by academia collaborates with industry on closing skills gaps.

However, further investment in R&D, quality curriculum development and university-industry partnerships is needed.

Case Studies of Cyber Security Incidents

Bangladesh has been targeted by major cyber attacks in recent years, including:

Bangladesh Bank Cyber Heist (2016): Hackers breached the central bank's networks and attempted to steal nearly $1 billion from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, making off with $81 million. The audacious heist exposed critical vulnerabilities.

Telecom Network Breach (2018): Hackers compromised the networks of a major telecom operator, gaining access to customer data and facing accusations of national security risks before being thwarted.

Government Ransomware Attack (2022): Multiple government agencies including the Ministry of Disaster Management fell victim to a major ransomware attack that crippled systems before a decryptor was deployed.

These incidents prompted reviews and measures to improve cyber readiness:

  • Formation of the National Computer Emergency Response Team (CIRT) with a 24/7 cyber monitoring center.

  • Initiatives to upgrade legacy IT systems, conduct security audits and secure networks against vulnerabilities.

  • Push for tighter regulatory standards and adoption of security frameworks.

  • Collaborations with global experts and agencies to enhance cyber forensic and incident response capabilities.

However, cyber criminals continually find new attack vectors to exploit remaining security gaps.

High-profile cyber attacks significantly raised national awareness of cyber threats and their potential for disruption and economic loss.

While concrete steps were taken, these incidents exposed systemic shortcomings like outdated infrastructure, insufficient security protocols, lack of cyber workforce capacity and weak emergency response.

Bangladesh continues efforts to build cyber resilience, but the risk landscape keeps evolving with new threats like supply chain attacks and state-sponsored cyber operations. Sustained investments and proactive strategies are needed to secure the nation's digital future.

Future Outlook and Recommendations

As Bangladesh's digital transformation accelerates, several cyber security trends are expected:

  • Cloud Migration: More businesses and government functions will shift to cloud computing, increasing needs for robust cloud security controls.

  • 5G and IoT Expansion: Nationwide 5G rollout and growth of connected IoT devices will expand the cyber attack surface to secure.

  • Rise of Cyber Crimes: Sophisticated financial crimes, ransomware and data breaches targeting businesses are likely to rise further.

  • Nation-State Threats: State-sponsored cyber espionage, hacktivism and critical infrastructure attacks pose national security risks.

To bolster Bangladesh's cyber resilience, experts recommend:

  • Develop a comprehensive national cyber security strategy with clear governance, regulatory frameworks and resource allocation plans.

  • Establish a centralized national computer emergency response team (CERT) with advanced detection, forensics and response capabilities.

  • Mandate cyber security standards/certifications across critical sectors like banking, telecom and energy.

  • Invest heavily in cyber security education, skills development and professional training programs to build a robust talent pipeline.

  • Incentivize public-private partnerships and information sharing initiatives on cyber threats and best practices.

  • Modernize IT infrastructure promptly and implement security by design principles across systems.

As cyber threats transcend borders, international cooperation is vital for Bangladesh:

  • Participate actively in global cyber security forums and initiatives for capacity building and consensus on cyber norms.

  • Forge bilateral/multilateral partnerships for cyber intel sharing, joint cybercrime monitoring and incident coordination.

  • Collaborate with regional partners and blocs like SAARC and ASEAN on cyber security frameworks and joint drills.

  • Leverage assistance from bodies like ITU, World Bank and industry coalitions for latest technologies and mitigation strategies.

By adopting a multi-stakeholder approach involving government, industry and global allies, Bangladesh can enhance its cyber security resilience.

General FAQs about cyber security status of Bangladesh

Q: What are the major cyber security challenges faced by Bangladesh?

Ans: Bangladesh, like many other countries, faces various cyber security challenges, including cybercrime, vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, and emerging threats such as ransomware and phishing attacks. These challenges require concerted efforts from both the government and private sector to address effectively.

Q: What is the government doing to improve cyber security in Bangladesh?

Ans: The government of Bangladesh has taken several initiatives to enhance cyber security within the country. This includes the formulation of cyber security laws and regulations, establishment of key government agencies responsible for cyber security, and collaborations with international organizations to strengthen cyber defense capabilities.

Q: How is the private sector contributing to cyber security efforts in Bangladesh?

Ans: The private sector in Bangladesh plays a crucial role in bolstering cyber security measures. Many companies invest in cyber security technology and training for their employees. Additionally, businesses collaborate with the government and other organizations to share threat intelligence and best practices to mitigate cyber risks.

Q: What steps are being taken to raise awareness about cyber security among the public?

Ans: Various awareness programs and campaigns are conducted to educate the public about cyber security threats and best practices. These initiatives include workshops, seminars, and public service announcements aimed at promoting cyber hygiene and safe online practices.

Q: What can individuals do to protect themselves from cyber threats in Bangladesh?

Ans: Individuals can take several proactive steps to safeguard their online activities, such as using strong, unique passwords, keeping software and antivirus programs up to date, being cautious of suspicious emails and websites, and regularly backing up important data.

Q: How does Bangladesh collaborate with international partners to combat cyber threats?

Ans: Bangladesh actively participates in international forums and collaborations to enhance its cyber security capabilities. This includes information sharing, joint exercises, and partnerships with other countries and international organizations to address global cyber threats effectively.

Q: What is the future outlook for cyber security in Bangladesh?

Ans: The future of cyber security in Bangladesh looks promising with continued efforts from all stakeholders. As technology evolves, new challenges will arise, but with proactive measures, strong partnerships, and ongoing awareness initiatives, Bangladesh is well-positioned to strengthen its cyber security posture and protect its digital assets.

Final thoughts on cyber security status of Bangladesh

While Bangladesh continues to confront diverse cyber risks, the nation is making steady progress in strengthening its cyber security posture. With sustained efforts across all stakeholders, coupled with global partnerships, Bangladesh is well-positioned to develop robust cyber resilience.

The digital transformation unlocks immense socio-economic opportunities. By prioritizing cyber security as an integral foundation, Bangladesh can harness technology safely and securely for national development and growth.