FROM LATHI TO LAPTOP
Date of Publishing:30/8/2010
Today's cops need to know their guns better than ever before, with a potential 26/11 situation always looming large. But policemen are also becoming cyber-savvy, with virtual criminals opening up new fronts
When K Radhakrishnan joined the police department as an IPS officer in the early 1980s, he had to deal mostly with cases of swindling. "People who deposited cash in post offices, banks or cooperative societies were swindled by the clerks," he recalls. The amount swindled usually ranged between Rs 500 to Rs 10,000. "The cash would be handled only by a few people, so it was easy to nab the culprit," says Radhakrishnan, who is now additional director general of police (law and order).
A few decades later, people are still being swindled in the city — but the scale has grown unbelievably and the modus operandi changed unimaginably. Recently, a fraudster who had managed to collect personal details of individuals, approached a mobile service provider claiming that he had lost his SIM card. After getting a duplicate SIM card, he hacked into the victim’s internet banking account and sent a request to the bank to reset his password. Since the bank normally sends a hard copy by mail and also to the mobile, he got the netbanking password and username and used it to transfer money to another account, which he could access. This year, Chennai's cyber crime cell has received four such cases, which are yet to be cracked by the police.
"We did not receive cyber crime cases until 2003. That year we formed the cyber crime wing and we initially received about 20 complaints a year," says M Sudhakar, additional deputy commissioner of police. "But the number is increasing slowly with more people accessing the Internet." The cyber crime department of the police received nearly 800 complaints this year, including cases of phishing (online attempts to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details), online cheating, and hacking into websites.
"Instances of threatening mails and text messages and prank calls are also on the rise," says Sudhakar. To keep up with changing times, the police department has also been updating its skills to combat the new breed of sophisticated criminals. Chennai city police has a state-of-the-art cyber crime lab. Even the department of forensic science now has a cyber crime division.
There are plans to install a new cyber crime wing and lab in Madurai and Tiruchi, apart from another one in Coimbatore. As part of the modernisation of police force scheme, all the police stations are being linked via the intranet. "Each police station has been provided with four computers and Internet connections," says a senior police officer. "This will help in sharing information and tracking criminals."
Special training is given to newly-recruited police personnel, says Radhakrishnan. "We have a new facility that can impart training to 20 personnel at a time at Tamil Nadu Police Academy in Oonamanchery (in Chennai). It has been set up with technical support from NASSCOM," he says. "They will send us two paid experts to train our personnel. They will be familiarised with tools of cyber crime investigation and forensics."
Cyber crime investigation has been made a part of the general syllabus for new direct recruits. They will have to study the scientific nuances of new-generation crimes that does not restrict itself to jurisdictional boundaries. Direct recruits to the posts of deputy superintendent, sub-inspector and police constables will also now be trained at the recently-established cyber lab at the Tamil Nadu Police Academy.