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How to bust cyber crimes

June 27, 2005 11:55 IST
As cyber crimes in BPOs make headlines, computer forensic experts say Indian investigating agencies need to be a step ahead of the criminals in putting together sophisticated tools to discover evidence.

Billions of rupees are stolen each year by criminals with credit card crimes topping the list as the digital revolution in India brings to fore newer frauds, says Samir Datt, director of Computer Forensics and Investigations in Pune-based software firm Visionindia.

"Computer forensics is an emerging field that could help victims of computer crimes to discover evidence. It has wide applications in investigation and analysis techniques to acquire potential legal evidence", says Datt whose firm helps police forces of many Indian states in busting cyber crimes and employs software used by the FBI as well as police departments of countries like the US and Germany.

Alongside credit card crimes, the number of cases of insurance and medical fraud, money laundering, espionage and intelligence gathering were also on the rise, he said.

"There has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases where women are harassed on e-mail by jilted lovers or maniacs", Datt says.

"We have handled a case where a few employees of a Pune-based offshore processing unit stole the PIN numbers of US Citibank clients and tried to steal money but were caught.

We also nabbed a youngster who had sent misleading e-mails to the police about a girl who had spurned him. The evidence matters the most and it needs to be precise", he adds.

M L Sharma, government examiner of questioned documents, at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory says the number of people forging signatures or computer documents has seen a phenomenal rise in recent times.

"We receive loads of forged and manipulated documents from investigating agencies across the country. The volumes have been increasing every year", he says.

Gourav Dutt, IG of West Bengal's Police Academy says the police is ill-equipped to handle cyber crimes as technology had made things a lot simpler for criminals to avoid the net laid down by sleuths.

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"Today, a pizza reaches you faster than the police! You just have to punch a few buttons and order. In an era of automation, the investigators need to have a strong base of computer forensics to be able to get leads on any case faster than the criminals can wipe evidence off", he says.

Samir Datt says the investigators could put to use advanced software that protects computer systems, discovers and recovers all files through forensic bits ream imaging of hard disc drives as well as tape drive memory sticks.

"E-mail investigations, recovery of hidden files as well as temporary files is possible through expertise available with such forensic software", he points out. CFSL director Bablinder Kaur says cyber crimes had changed the very outlook of investigators and evidence collectors with the huge number of possibilities available with the medium.

"It is amazing how criminals and hackers find out newer ways to get past anti-hacking software developed a few years back. As their minds work overtime to develop new antidotes, we need to pep up our efforts to lay out foolproof nets", she says.

However, the lack of manpower and state-of-the-art expertise in most cyber crime cells could come in the way of such efforts, Kaur says adding CFSL had begun a national reorientation programme to groom computer forensic experts.

The Visionindia forensic expert says hi-tech software could be used to fight child pornography, tracking down missing children, employees' misuse of the Internet, accounting and bank frauds.

"The fundamental rules of computer forensics are never to mishandle the evidence or work on original evidence. Moreover, the investigators must never trust the questioned operating system and must document all findings", he says.

Police sleuths and investigators must be equipped to analyse file systems forensically, collect onsite evidence, seize digital evidence and be able to analyse it.
Subhra Priyadarshini
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