Thursday, January 24, 2008

Victims steer clear of FIRs for fear of publicity

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A few months ago, the cyber crime investigation cell (CCIC) of the crime branch received a complaint from the director of a private firm stating that a 62-year-old man, who had retired from the armed forces, had clicked photographs of her in a compromising position and sent it to her husband and relatives via email.

The 47-year-old victim, a resident of Walkeshwar in south Mumbai, had befriended the man in the course of her work and the relationship had got physical. Over the last five years, without her knowledge, the accused had taken photographs of her in a compromising position with him. He had emailed them to her family to spite her when he found out she was travelling abroad with a few male colleagues. The only hitch was she was not ready to lodge an FIR as she feared that the case would attract publicity.

“This is why the accused in most web crimes get away.. The victims, mostly women and girls, are reluctant to file an official complaint fearing a lot of media attention. They do not want to get entangled in court procedures either,’’ said an officer from the cell.

In most such cases, the victims approach the police in order to verify or trace the identity of the person responsible for putting out the email or other offensive material on the internet. In the last one year alone, CCIC has received at least 15 informal complaints where obscene profiles, photos and addresses of young women and teenagers have been posted on networking sites on the internet.

The victims have approached the police after receiving calls from unknown people asking for sexual favours. Despite the lack of a formal complaint, the CCIC has sought to trace the identity of the culprit in some cases. In others, they have merely advised the victims to lodge an FIR in order to press charges.

“Investigations show that in 70% cases, the accused are known to the victims,’’ said an officer. Po
lice said very often, photographs and other personal details are exchanged during the good times in a relationship. But when it deteriorates, those jilted try to retaliate using the net as a tool. “Earlier we would find the involvement of youngsters. Now a days even older people are involved in such crimes,’’ an officer said.

On receiving a complaint, the CCIC usually checks the Header of the email to trace the Internet
Protocol (IP) address. The IP address number, if put in the search column of a website,, reveals the identity of the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Subsequently, a letter is sent to the concerned ISP asking for details on the person who held the IP address. The details, if available, helps the cyber police to nab the accused.

Similarly, for malicious scraps about individuals posted on social
networking sites, a request is sent to the concerned ISP. If the ISP is based abroad, the CCIC sends a request through a ‘letter rogatory’ which has to spell out case details in 45-50 pages. The request is then filed through Interpol.

For blocking a website in India, the CCIC has to approach the Computer Emergency Response Team which comes under the ministry of Information and Technology.

A group of students, all girls, from the psychology department of Mumbai University, approached the CCIC in 2005, complaining that they had received morphed photographs on email showing one of their classmates naked. Police found one of the girls had broken off with her boyfriend recently. But as it transpired, she created an email ID in the name of her boyfriend’s cousin, who lived in Dubai, and forwarded the photos herself to the boyfriend and all her classmates to gain sympathy from him and her friends. No FIR was filed.

A software engineer, who wanted to marry an ex-classmate, learnt that
she was getting married and began sending abusive and vulgar emails to the girl and her fiance. The girl, who was working with a security agency, then approached the CCIC. Investigators zeroed in on the culprit and when the girl found out who the culprit was, she was shocked, but she refused to file an FIR.

A former student of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, now employed with a leading media house, started receiving obscene emails soon after she sent out invites for her wedding to all her friends. The mails were traced to a former classmate.

The Times of India, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Cyber Cops Ready To Click

Maharashtra Is Poised To Take The Battle Against Increasing E-Crime To The Next Level With A Hi-Tech Police Station

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Maharashtra police hope to give a major boost to the InfoTech and callcentre industries in the region as well as improve cyber-crime detection by opening a state-ofthe art Cyber Crime Police Station within a fortnight.

Maharashtra’s first, fullfledged, dedicated Cyber Crime Police Station will start functioning on the first floor of the Bandra-Kurla Complex Police Station in Bandra (East).

Unlike the current Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) of the Mumbai police, which has jurisdiction only in the city, the new police station will have statewide jurisdiction. It will also have the power to register FIRs and make arrests, powers that the CCIC do not have.

The 18-member CCIC will be absorbed into the 61-strong police station. While all 84 po
lice stations in the city report to the joint commissioner of police (law and order), personnel from the new police station will report to the joint commissioner (crime).

Police officials said the new facility will help tackle ecrimes as also give a boost to the Business Process Outsourcing and call-centre industry in the region. The only other two dedicated cyber crime police stations in the country are in the Information Technology (IT) meccas of Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Police officials said the police station will be staffed with computer-literate graduates who have been trained in taking down FIRs. They will focus mainly on offences that can be registered under the IT Act, 2000—like money-laundering, hawala transactions and the online flesh trade.

The increasing number of
cyber crimes has made it imperative for Maharashtra to get its own dedicated Cyber Crime Police Station, officials said. As technology improves, so do the tools used by criminals, they added.

“We are shifting equipment from the CCIC at Crawford Market to the BKC and the fullfledged cyber police station will become functional within 15 days with added features, advanced technology and improved software,’’ said joint commissioner of police (administration) Hemant Karkare.

The existing CCIC office will be converted into a branch office of the BKC Cyber Crime Police Station.

Karkare said that even if the accused and the victim in a cyber crime are not from Mumbai, but the service provider is from the city, the cyber police station will register the case.

“Rs 50 lakh has been given from the budget for the police modernisation plan to upgrade the cyber police station. Our computers will have anti-virus and anti-hacking software,’’ informed Karkare.
Last year, the Mumbai police had also begun compiling a list of all Internet Protocol addresses in the city. The police wrote to 10 Internet Service Providers asking for the physical address of each terminal served by them.

A senior police officer added that the creation of a cyber crime police station could also attract more IT companies to the region. IT companies are attracted to Bangalore and Hyderabad because the cities afford protection from cyber crime, he said. “Once the police station is started, MNCs may prefer to make Mumbai their base,’’ an officer said.

The BKC police station was constructed at a cost of Rs 3 crore as recently as 2002. It reportedly has good facilities and is said to be one of the city’s better-equipped police stations.

Hacking has been widely defined in Section 66 of InfoTech (IT) Act
Culprits can be those who have intent to cause, or know that they are likely to cause, an offence
The victim can be “the public’’ or an individual person who has faced wrongful loss or damage of computer information and/or resources

The damage could be caused by destroying, deleting or altering information in a computer resource and/or
diminishing its value or utility
Punishment is imprisonment of up to 3 years and/or a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh

Section 67 of the IT Act deals with the publishing of obscene electronic information
Victims include those harassed by vulgar e-mails or other computer messages and pictures
Pornographers can also face action under this section
Culprits are those who publish or transmit obscene information, or even cause such information to be published

The information is defined as “any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons’’
First conviction is imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh
Second conviction is imprisonment of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh

Victims cannot get more than Rs 1 crore for damage to computers, computer systems and so on

The Times of India, January 16, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008

An Unlocked CELL BEHIND Prison Walls

Every visit to Arthur Road Jail, India’s most sensitive lock-up, can be an adventure in itself

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

It was an eye camp for undertrials in the country’s most sensitive prison, Arthur Road Jail. Not exactly an eye-popping assignment, but a worthy excuse for the motley tribe of crime reporters to enter the highsecurity hub.

I walked past the main gate towards the smaller padlocked one where a pot-bellied constable with a walrus moustache asked, “Whom do you want to meet?’’ I flashed my press card and he ambled across to open the gate. “How many times a day do you unlock this gate?’’ I asked.

I don’t know if he was joking, but
he tonelessly offered, “Around 500 times.’’ His colleague mechanically added, “Switch off your cellphone.’’ I promptly did so.

Blame it on my heightened consciousness in top-security settings or the eclectic nature of the inmates at Arthur Road Jail, but each visit there has been an adventure in itself. I bumped into a convict sweeping the courtyard. I asked him for directions to the eye camp, but he only glowered back. Then he discovered I was a reporter
and a strange misery crossed his face: “Aap mera ek kaam kar denge kya ?’’ he pleaded. He wanted me to ask his relatives to come meet him. I asked, “Can’t you ask the jailer to call your relatives?’’ He simply scooted off.

At the hospital (which looked more like a dispensary), there was a long queue of undertrials in jeans, trousers, lungis, shorts and whathave-yous. I focused on a known face—a man in jeans and black Tshirt who was an accused in the 1993 serial blasts case. In his early 30s, he was always clean shaven, sported gelled hair, and wore neat footwear and ironed clothes. I killed the urge to ask Hazrat (as I call him) the se
cret of his natty appearance, and instead queried: “Do all these men have eye problems?’’ Hazrat, the cool bhai, answered: “Most have come to collect the free sunglasses.’’

He then introduced me to a “special’’ person. “Bhai, yeh newspaper se aaye hain,’’ he told a man in his early 50s. I recognised the salt-and-pepper-haired gent from his news photos. He was also an accused in the serial blasts case and had been deported from
the UAE. Here’s a real bhai, I said to myself. Surrounded by half-a-dozen cronies, he looked at me sharply before unexpectedly asking, “Aren’t you the journalist who got bashed up by a gangster a few years ago?’’ I said “yes’’ and added that I had filed a police case. The bhai took out a madein-Yemen Rothmans and lit up. Half his cronies followed suit.

``Why don’t you write about the
stinking toilets, broken rooms and stale food here?’’ he asked. Pointing to a police constable, he added, “These babas (constables) are corrupt. They provide everything if they are paid. I have told my men not to pay them a single paisa. If they ask for a bribe, I will talk to their bosses.’’

A famished-looking criminal, wearing a dirty, reeking T-shirt,
stopped by to ask for a cigarette stub. “Take it and get lost,’’ one of the cronies growled. Dozens of other petty criminals watched the bhai’s battalion. One gathered the courage to say, “Bhai, we need your help to fight our legal cases. We are poor. We have been framed.’’

“I am not Haatim Tai to shower money on others. However, I will see what can be done about you,’’ the bhai replied and asked one of his men to collect the details. This was how gangsters enlisted men. Offer a small favour, forge a bond.

Hazrat brought me back to the real world. “Write about the doctors here,’’ he said. “We have two. One is a child specialist and the other has come from a post-mortem centre. They give the same medicines for everything, without listening to the patients’ problems properly.’’ It was apparent that Hazrat was using me to flaunt his ‘connections’ to the people around.

When the meeting ended, Hazrat asked to use my mobile phone. I tried to shake him off by saying, “My phone’s not working because of the mobile-jammer installed here.’’ But he persisted: “The jammer is of low quality and dysfunctional. It seems you don’t want to give me your mobile. It’s OK, but remember how D K Rao (a gangster) had used a phone and three SIM cards before the crime branch seized them?’’

Hazrat said he was writing a book on the jail. I wished him luck and left to get details for my story. After collecting information, I switched on my cell just for kicks. Within seconds, the metro editor called. “Do you have a story?’’ he asked. I don’t remember my answer. I was still digesting the fact that my cell phone was working inside Arthur Road Jail.

(This is the 13th and the last in a series in which TOI reporters speak of an unforgettable experience during their assignments in the year that has just ended.)

The Times of India, January 6, 2008