Terrorists have been able to use the internet to acquire real time information on police investigations, which has helped them plan their next move and also change their location. Vicky Nanjappa reports
Security risk posed by terrorists using the internet is a well-known problem. IPS officer Aditya Mishra, who spoke recently at the International Conference on Mobile Law in New Delhi [ Images ], explained at length how the internet and internet telephony had become a cause for concern for security agencies.
The United States of America too raised a similar concern with Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller recently suggesting that cyber security threats could very soon become bigger threats than terrorism.
If we were to consider the 26/11 attack in Mumbai [ Images ], it is quite clear that India failed in preventing the attack which was largely carried out through the internet.
Right from the stage of planning to financial transactions, everything was carried out on the internet and our agencies were clearly in the dark all through the operation. Mishra during the conference explained how the VoIP (Voice over IP) was used during the 26/11 attack. He said that the terrorists used a VoIP-based service in New Jersey, USA.
Callphonex received an email from a mail id, email@example.com on October 21, 2008, from Kharak Singh from India, for starting a VoIP account. "To activate this Callphonex VoIP account, an initial payment of $250 was made by one Mohammaed Isfaq through a Lahore [ Images ] based agent through Money Gram.
A virtual number 0012012531824 was allotted by Callphonex, a property of a Voxbone, a Belgian company, which was leased out to Callphonex, and a request was changed for allotment for five DID numbers (Direct Inward Dialers)." The calls are supposed to come for the virtual US number, but they go to the five Austrian DID numbers, which are all virtual numbers, albeit mobile numbers.
India has now become fully aware of the problem and realises that it needs a full-fledged agency to counter this menace. India feels that its problems in cyber space would be solved to a large extent once the National Cyber Coordination Centre is set up. The job of this centre would be to monitor all activity on cyber space and then report it to the investigating agencies.
India today finds itself as a victim of both cyber attacks and also cyber terrorism. Police officials say that despite very stringent measures, the web is the worst place to deal with, as terrorists would continue using it and finding ways to beat the security system.
The Indian agencies would look to adopt the FBI style of functioning where they would not only pick up intercepts but also identify patterns and players indulging in cyber crime. This would go a long way and would help identify the trail, so that cracking or even preventing attacks would become easier. In addition to this, the Indian agencies also expect a very strong legislation to support their case. The proposed National Cyber Coordination Centre threatens to invade into privacy as it is intended to monitor each and every mail, tweet or facebook update remotely connected with India. Indian agencies hope that the government would be able to overcome certain privacy issues so that all time is not lost fighting legal battles.
While the 26/11 styled attacks and the use of the internet would gain top precedence for Indian agencies, they also have headaches posed by homegrown terrorist outfits. The Indian Mujahideen [ Images ] in particular has been notorious to use the web and has very often managed to fox Indian agencies.
Cyber experts say that the internet has become the most preferred medium for terrorists. Not only have they been planning operations on the net but also use the information available on it to their advantage. In cases of terrorism, the internet has provided real time information which has helped terrorists plan their next move and also change their location.
The agencies are trying to find a way to regulate the flow of content on the web which could prove fatal to investigation. The net was often accessed on cell phones by Indian Mujahideen operatives and they picked up information on police investigation real time, which helped them plan their next move. Some police officers say that most of the time the flow of news is at such a fast pace that the operatives give them the slip.
The Delhi police, which has been investigating several crimes committed by the Indian Mujahideen, has found that it was the internet that helped these persons a great deal. The operatives are said to have confessed to using their cell phones to access the web. They were trained to use key search words regarding a case and they moved around avoiding arrest based on the information that the police were feeding the press.
Delhi police officers said that the use of this tactic helped them evade arrests for quite some time. There is a need to regulate the information that is coming out of the various departments involved in investigation so that it is not used to the advantage of terrorists, police officers pointed out.