President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & Group CEO: M H Ahssan

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are Hyderabad Cops Tech-Savvy?

Still Working With Obsolete Software, Ill-Trained Staffers. Imagine this. A bunch of men with boredom written large on their faces staring blankly into shabby and outdated computers dotting a poorly-lit room. Decorating the corners of this ‘hole in the wall’ are stacks of either broken-down CPUs (central processing unit) or dust. Barring lunch-time, there is always a dull moment here. Wondering just what this is? It is the city’s much-important cyber crime police station in Nampally. Armed with obsolete software and ill-trained staffers, it’s not surprising that the success rate of this branch (in solving cyber 
crimes) is an abysmal 40% or less. 
    
It is also not tough to gauge why today’s crop of tech-savvy criminals, with access to faster processors and new-age systems, have flooded the virtual world and think it’s child’s play to beat the law or its custodians at this ‘online game’. The city office is ridden with dysfunctional.  A visit there revealed that a dozen officers (roughly) do not even have access to an UPS system or generator to keep their computers up and about during the routine power cuts. 

Worse, the room has no airconditioning facility (considering it is a must in a room with multiple computers) or even respectable desks and chairs for the cops. 
   
Through candid chats with the staff there, during their daily ‘break’ (read: power cut), the following facts came to light: Their systems were still running on Pentium 3 (produced from 1999 to 2003) and Pentium 4 (2000 to mid 2008) processors. The Random Access Memory (RAM) which contributes to the computer’s speed ranged from 512 MB (megabytes) to a maximum of 1 GB (gigabytes) and their latest operating systems were Windows XP for which Microsoft has declared that support will end early next year (Windows XP Service Pack 2 was already unsupported in 2010). 

“If they are really using systems with these configurations, they are at least five to six years behind the majority of the people using computers,” said K Shubham, security advisor to a city-based website. “The latest core i7 processor can perform the same task twice or three times faster than a Pentium 4. Also, a 512 MB of RAM may take days or even weeks to decrypt any encrypted data or graphic,” he said, adding that police cells specialising in cyber crime must have the latest technologies as they often require to intercept and decode such classified data for cases. 
    
“Outdated systems are not the only hurdle, lack of understanding with other countries and 
procedural delays too cause several hindrances in the investigation,” the source said. “Certain servers in USA do not cooperate when it comes to revealing IP addresses citing reasons like violation of privacy laws. In such cases, we have to appeal to the court there for a subpoena (a writ requiring appearance in court to give testimony) routed through the FBI which takes a minimum of two years,” the former officer added. 
    
Further, the source explained that certain servers in China and Russia were being used to forge IP addresses which have complicated things further. What’s added to the mess is the use of ‘dynamic IP addresses’. For example, a computer at a certain company that possesses IP addresses from 1 to 100 will keep changing every day, depending on the time the ‘user’ of the system logs on to it. 
    
Unprotected WiFi too is an obstacle. In fact sources confessed how this had proved to be a serious riddance in trying to locate the computer used for a crime, on a campus with hundreds of systems and an open Wi-Fi. “The government should invest on upgrading the software regularly. Annual training and workshops for the staff too are required,” an expert said. 
    
Officials at the Central Crime Station (CCS) however, maintained they were performing their duties efficiently with the available systems. “This department is very dynamic and changes almost daily. To upgrade on a daily basis is not possible. So we have to do it periodically,” said L K V Ranga Rao, deputy commissioner of police, CCS. 
  • Officers do not have access to an UPS system or generator 
  • The room has no air-conditioning facility or proper desks and chairs for cops 
  • Systems still running on Pentium 3 and Pentium 4 processors 
  • RAM ranged from 512 MB to a maximum of 1 GB 
  • The latest operating system was Windows XP 
  • Unprotected WiFi too is an obstacle
Too few cops to fight cyber criminals
While criminals are increasingly becoming tech savvy, the police department do not seem to be in sync with the changing times. The city police have just three cyber crime police stations, despite white-collar offences increasing by the day. 
    
While addressing the media at the customary annual briefing in December 2012, director general of police (DGP) V Dinesh Reddy had said that in the wake of increasing cyber crimes, theywould soon open cyber crime police stations in Vizag, Vijayawada and Tirupati, apart from bolstering the strength of the force in the city. Nearly three months after the announcement, the proposal to initiate specialised police stations is still on paper. 
    
Currently, there are three cyber crime police stations in Hyderabad. There is a separate cyber crime station in each of the city commissionerates, while the third one, at the Crime Investigation Department (CID), has jurisdiction over the entire state. 
    
In other words, except Hyderabad and Vizag, there are no specially-trained staff to handle cyber crimes in other districts and due to this several white-collar cases go unreported or their investigation does not yield desired results. 
    
Cyber crime police are currently dealing with complaints pertaining to cyber stalking, identity theft, hacking, source code theft, defamation of individuals and companies. Among the three police stations, CID’s Cyber Crime unit has the state-of-the-art ‘Digital Investigation Lab’. Even though they have jurisdiction over the entire state, CID police are currently not registering complaints from Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam as these cities have specialised local units to handle cyber crime cases. 
    
The cyber crime police stations take up investigation, while crucial prevention job (cyber world surveillance) is done only by intelligence department sleuths among the state police. They keep tabs on suspicious email accounts and screen cyber traffic for communication between criminal and terror elements. As there are not enough cyber crime experts in the state, there is an urgent need to train more police personnel in the field.
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