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Policing the wires

Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad | August 05, 2003 15:36 IST

Hyderabad's cyber crime cops set to file first charge sheet

Hyderabad's pioneering 'cyber crime police station' is all set to file the first of its charge sheets.

The cyber crime police station functions within the Crime Investigation Department of Andhra Pradesh Police. So far it has investigated 11 cases and arrested four accused.

"Charge sheets in two cyber crimes are likely to be filed within a couple of weeks in the 9th Metropolitan Magistrate's Court that deals with CID cases," says Ravi Kiran, a police official at the cyber crime police station.

Though the state government had issued orders for setting up the cyber crime unit in May 2002, the special police station began work only in December. Late last month it moved into the newly constructed CID office complex here.

"The cyber crime police station has jurisdiction over all of Andhra Pradesh and deals with cyber offences under the Information Technology Act, 2000," Kiran explains.

He points out that this large jurisdiction over the entire state is unique to his police station. Three other cyber crime police stations that were founded later in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have powers within their cities only.

"Right now, we are dealing with offences committed under the IT Act; particularly sections 65, 66 and 67.  These pertain to tampering of computer source documents, hacking of computer systems and publication of obscene information in electronic form. We also add relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, depending on the nature of the offence," Kiran says.

The cyber crime police station has registered eight cases since December 2002. Besides, three cases of cyber crime, registered by the Hyderabad City Police, have also been transferred to the cyber crime police station for investigation.

Eight of these cases pertain to Section 67, where the accused have been charged with sending obscene emails to the complainants. Two cases relate to Section 65, which is about theft of source code. And one case falls under Section 66, which covers hacking.

The cyber crime police arrested a person who has been accused of using fake IDs, sending obscene emails to BJP MP Denzil B Atkinson and threatening to kidnap his daughters.

In another case, the cyber crime police arrested a food and beverages manager of a luxury hotel in Chennai, for sending obscene emails to a lady IPS officer, who is working as an inspector-general of police in Hyderabad.

One person was nabbed for stealing source code and another was arrested for sending obscene emails to the executives of a US company.

"The accused in all the cases detected so far are highly educated people who are well-versed with computers. One is a doctor, a child specialist, and another is a systems engineer with a BTech degree. Then there is a government officer with a postgraduate degree," Kiran says.

In six cases, the investigation is stuck either because the incriminating emails were sent through cyber cafes or a foreign Internet service provider has refused to cooperate in furnishing user details. Indian ISPs, however, have been extending all the help they can.

"We are facing problems in investigating some cases because the cyber criminals are using Internet cafes for sending malicious mails. These cafes do not maintain any users logs. In other instances, the suspects live abroad and this makes it difficult to pursue the case," Kiran explains.

At present, the cyber crime police station is accepting complaints in writing, lodged personally by the affected people. There is no online registration of complaints right now. Even if people send complaints through email, they will have to follow it up with a validation by visiting the police station.

Additional Superintendent of Police, M Sivananda Reddy, heads the cyber crime police station as station house officer. He is assisted by Deputy Superintendent of Police C Jayaram Reddy, a sub-inspector and four constables. A private consultant has also been hired.

As per the IT Act, cognizable offences under Section 65 (tampering with computer source documents) are punishable with imprisonment up to three years or with fine up to Rs 200,000 or both. Offences under Section 66 (hacking computer systems) are punishable with imprisonment up to three years or fine up to Rs 300,000 or both.

Similarly, offences under Section 67 (publishing obscene information in electronic form) are punishable with imprisonment up to five years and fine up to Rs 100,000 for the first conviction and prison term up to 10 years and fine up to Rs 200,000 for the second conviction.

The cyber crime police station, which seizes computer systems, hard disks and other incriminating material, sends them to the AP Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis and report.

Incidentally, the APFSL, the only ISO-9000 forensic lab in India, has set up the country's first state-level computer crime laboratory on its Hyderabad campus.

The Computer Crime Analysis Lab is equipped with the latest equipment and expertise to deal with all types of computer crimes, computer frauds and computer abuse. The lab can handle cases pertaining to hacking, spread of virus, pornography, manipulation of accounts, alteration of data, software piracy, creation of false Web sites, printing of counterfeit currency, forged visas, theft of intellectual property, email spamming, denial of access, password theft, crimes with cell phones and palmtops, cyber terrorism and steganography, the transmission of secret codes concealed in pictures.

 



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