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Rediff.com  » News » Misuse of Skype, VOIP bring them under IB scanner

Misuse of Skype, VOIP bring them under IB scanner

November 07, 2011 16:40 IST

Police asked to develop de-encryption software to improve gathering of technical intelligence on terror groups, who were using it to avoid detection.

The annual director general of police conference that was held last month brought out the security risk posed by services like Skype, which offer free phone calls over the internet, and VOIP (voice over internet protocol)-enabled high-end smartphone mobiles. The two services are now under the Intelligence Bureau's scanner, as they are of late being used by terrorists and left-wing extremists to escape detection by security agencies.       

State police chiefs of Punjab and Jharkhand had raised concerns that tech savvy terrorists were using these services to access the Internet and make calls using encrypted communication, proxy servers and Wi-Fi connections. They even do not insert a SIM card in such phones to avoid their location getting registered, as Internet calls can be made without it.

A working group, headed by a senior IB officer with the intelligence officers from several state governments, has been tasked to formulate a strategy to deal with this new cyber menace. They have also been entrusted with the responsibility to introduce regulatory measures and development of de-encryption software to improve gathering of technical intelligence on terror groups.

It will also be looking at developing deduplication software to resolve the problem of a large number of SIM cards registered under false identity. It was pointed out at the DGP conference that the onus put on mobile service providers to eliminate such cards did not work out, as they are more interested in expanding their consumer base.

Yet another group, headed by Bihar DGP Abhayanand with officers from metropolitan cities have been tasked to work out the modalities for securing police access to the National Population Registrar (NPR), photo electoral rolls for elections and the UID (unique identity) database for the purpose of crime investigation.

However, there might be legal difficulties in the police gaining access to these databases since enumerators are trained to give solemn assurance to people while recording their details that they will not be used for any purpose other than the purpose for which the enumeration is done.

Human rights activists warn that police access to such databases will breach privacy of the people and many may avoid getting themselves registered if they learn that it will expose them to automatic police scrutiny.

Many state police chiefs also raised serious concern over an easy availability of explosives like ammonium nitrate, detonators and gelatine sticks, which enable terrorists and ultras to make bombs and develop improvised explosive devices. Participants in the DGP conference were shocked when Andaman and Nicobar Islands DGP S B Deol pointed out seizure of large quantities of these explosives in his territory that has little mining activities to justify them.

At his instance on the inadequacies of the existing laws to regulate manufacture, transport, sale and use of the explosives, a separate working group has been set up to revisit the regulatory policies under the chairmanship of Kerala DGP Jacob Punnoose. The group includes representatives from the Naxal-hit states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The group will assess the magnitude of the problem, particularly with regard to ammonium nitrate, and recommend correctives in the form of stern regulations on sale and purchase of the explosives, home ministry sources said.

It will also examine a suggestion of West Bengal DGP Bhupinder Singh on better coordination among states on the inter-state movement of arms, ammunition and explosives and strengthened capability of the office of the controller of explosives for checking pilferage of explosives like ammonium nitrate.

Though the laws require stockists and manufacturers to maintain record of the explosives in their godowns and in transit, their easy availability to the ultras exposes the loopholes. The pilferage is serious during the inter-state movement of the explosives as was noticed on October 16 in Madhya Pradesh when police seized a huge cache of 5,000 detonators and 10 boxes of gelatine sticks.

Delhi police was also able to seize a huge cache of explosives from a stolen vehicle parked at Ambala railway station that was supposed to be used in the capital during Diwali.

A correspondent in Delhi