down your Indian operations...or else! A warning from the bhai in
Dubai maybe? Phoenix Global Solutions, a US insurance company, simply
believed the e-mail threat was just a prankster's idea of a joke,
so its officials in Bangalore just smiled indulgently. Next day,
same threat. Some frowns, but that's about it. Four days later,
on November 10, company officials received the same mail and with
it found that the e-mail bomber had shut down their server in the
US. Stunned managers noted that the message was from India, and-given
the knowledge of security systems-probably an insider.
What's a self-respecting company to do? Approach
those men in khaki? That would normally be laughable, but in India's
tech mecca, influence of the software sweathouses is all pervasive.
Phoenix Global approached the three-month-old cyber-crime police
station, India's first such outfit. Deputy Superintendent of Police
(DSP) Kunigal Srikanta moved quickly. E-mails usually carry tell-tale
electronic postmarks, or IP addresses. With the help of the internet
service provider (VSNL), Srikanta tracked the IP address to two
cyber cafes in Jayanagar, a middle-class locality shaded by rain
trees and respectability.
But whodunnit? After all, so many customers
stream in every day. Just when the cops seem to have reached a dead-end,
one of the cyber cafes said it maintained a log of all customers.
With a little old-fashioned matching of time, date, and name, the
cyber-bomber was identified as one Vijay Kumar K.R. Phoenix officials
were flabbergasted. Vijay Kumar, 32, was one of their software engineers,
and-get this-he was honoured earlier as one of the company's best
On November 13, three days after the complaint
was lodged, Vijay Kumar was in the bag. Family problems made me
do it, he pleaded. Vijay Kumar is now charged with e-mail threats
and unauthorised access to networks. If found guilty, he could face
up to five years in the slammer.
|THE POLICEMAN: B.N. Nagaraj, IGP, has
a 15-man cyber team that is coached by the city's techies
|THE VICTIM: Ramakrishna Karuturi found
a former CEO had hijaced his proprietary code
From Murgi Fiyaz to Micro Chip
Carlton House is smart and bright. There are
no lathis, no khakis. Just serious young men and their backlit cubbyholes.
India's only cyber police station resembles any of the software
companies that give modern Bangalore its fame and success. Only
the board, ''Welcome to the cyber police station of Karnataka'',
is a give-away. It's been a learning experience for everyone here,
beginning with the chief, Inspector General of Police (economic
offences), B.N. Nagaraj, 58, a career policeman who's spent most
of his life in lathicharges and tracking semi-literate goons with
names like Murgi Fiyaz and Oil Kumar. He says the need for cyber
cops was first felt in 1999, when befuddled cops received complaints
about misrepresentation of e-mail and theft of internet hours. The
it Act was passed in 2000, to take care of the lack of provisions
in the Indian Penal Code to investigate, prosecute, and punish cyber
crime. In April 2001, came a cyber cell, and by November, the full
cyber police station was ready to go online. Seven cases have been
registered with the cyber police station since then, and its success
has prompted Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Goa to approach Karnataka's
cyber cops for help in starting similar police stations.
One of the people to benefit has been Ramakrishan
Karuturi, the chairman and managing director of the Rs 370-crore
Karuturi Group, who wanted his company Karuturi Networks to exploit
the market to send voice over the net. Voice over Internet Protocol
(VOIP), as the experts call it, is a huge opportunity. So, Karuturi
hired a CEO and invested half-a-million dollars in research to develop
a 'black box' that would enable anybody to plug into a phone line
and use it for VOIP. As the government announced that VOIP would
be legalised from April 2002, Karuturi, whose device was almost
ready by September 2001, was ecstatic. He planned to sell nearly
one lakh devices at Rs 9,999 each.
One day his CEO resigned, for ''personal reasons''.
Imagine his surprise when this former CEO floated his own company
and approached investors with exactly the same blueprint for a similar
device. ''More than one year's work and intellectual property worth
at least $10 million had been stolen from us,'' complains Karuturi.
An irate Karuturi approached the cyber cops.
They found out that the former CEO had mailed himself all the intellectual
property of the company using Karuturi's own e-mail network. Also,
just a few weeks before he quit, he had sent mail referring to himself
as the director of his own new company iSpatial Telecommunications.
With this incriminating e-mail as well as proof of the code being
sent from Karuturi Networks, the police were sure of their man.
The possible punishment: 10 years in the cooler with a fine of upto
Rs 10 lakh.
But the policemen who cracked the case weren't
always this savvy. Nagaraj first had to identify policemen who knew
it, from DSPS to constables. The 15 policemen, including four DSPS,
who were found suitable (there was no formal process for selecting
the team members. Members could be from any discipline, given that
they have a flair for technology. for instance, DSP Srikanta is
a commerce graduate, but what sets him apart from his colleagues
is his tech savvy and willingness to learn), then underwent intensive
training on the nuances of the it Act, as well as on latest technologies.
''Specially designed courses by education majors like Aptech and
SSI on subjects like encryption, decryption, data diddling, salami
attacks, logic bombs, network management, e-mail, and IP spoofing
were taught to them,'' says Nagaraj.
Magic Of L-Carnitine
Today I'm going to talk about
something called L-Carnitine. If you're a serious fitness
freak and a regular gym-goer, it will serve you well to remember
that weirdly hyphenated word. I myself am a recent initiate
into the world of L-Carnitine. And let me tell you what it's
done for me. Heard of the washboard stomach? The six-pack
abs? The sculpted ripped look? If you've yearned for all that
and kept pumping iron or pounding the treadmill at the gym,
but not seen any of it happen, L-Carnitine is for you.
No, it's not a steroid. Nor is it Creatine, the other C-word
substance that beefs up those puny muscles.
L-Carnitine isn't even an amino acid in the strictest sense
because it is not used as a neurotransmitter or in protein
synthesis. But it is similar to amino acids. Carnitine (the
'L' refers to its chemical polarity) is used by the body to
transport long chain fatty acids to the mitochondria in your
cells, where it is burned for energy. Since this fat burning
is such a major source of muscular energy, deficiencies in
Carnitine are manifested as low energy levels and muscular
weakness. In short, Carnitine is a wonder substance that helps
melt fat faster. So for any serious gym-goer, it's of vital
Where do you get Carnitine? It can be manufactured in the
body if the requisite vitamins and minerals are present. These
vitamins and minerals are B1, B6, C, and iron. Carnitine is
also present in animal foods. So if you are a vegetarian,
you may want to use L-Carnitine as a supplement.
If you're suffering from Carnitine deficiency, here's what
could happen: you could be burning fat at a suboptimal level
and, thus, your body would be storing it. That translates
into several health problems-like fatty build-ups in the heart
and liver (especially so if you like the occasional pint or
are, like me, a vodka martini aficionado). Carnitine helps
increase energy, burn fat, and control your weight. Plus,
it's good for your heart and liver. Could you ask for anything
Now that I've shot my wad about the magic of L-Carnitine,
here's something I promised last fortnight. What's the killer
exercise for your legs if you aren't up to doing squats. Well,
here's the answer: do walking lunges. Carry two dumbbells
at your side and take a huge step keeping your left foot rooted
at the standing position and the right thigh nearly parallel
to the ground. Now, do the same with your left foot in front
and the right behind. That's one rep. Do 40 in sets of 10.
And don't complain if you can't walk the next day!
Still, constables struggled because they were
also unfamiliar with handling evidence in cyber crimes. ''Unlike
other crimes where there is invariably a trace of physical evidence
left, an intelligent perpetrator of a cyber crime can erase all
evidence easily,'' says Nagaraj. ''That is why the IT Act permits
us to enter any premises without a search warrant in the case of
cyber crimes. The constables handling data disks, CDs, floppies,
or hard-drives have been trained on how important it is to handle
Everyone in Bangalore uses technology. So why
not career criminals? The cyber police station receives a complaint
about a website that provides listings on Bangalore's call girls
and their phone numbers. Nagaraj's people swiftly move to block
the site and investigate the phone numbers mentioned. Though half
of them turn out to be false, the rest are being investigated. The
problem is that the site is hosted on a server hooked up in New
Jersey. The police block the site as best as they can and write
to the server company. They don't expect much to happen though.
Porn on the net is legal, freely available, and a multimillion-dollar
industry in the US. What's a listing of Bangalore's brothels? DSP
Srikanta agrees that stamping out online pornography isn't one of
their main aims. It's almost impossible.
A new worry is cyber terrorism,
propelled by the rise of steganography. This technique involves
digital modification of a picture such that only a person who has
access to a password can decode the message. A secret message could
be hidden in a photo of Aishwarya Rai or a Mukesh song, for instance.
And if it's encoded with 512-bit encryption, the message would take
a couple of thousand millennia to crack with the present computing
power-meaning, it's well-nigh impossible.
Most of the cyber crime in the corporate world
though relates to things like unauthorised access, disrupting networks,
viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, copyright infringement, credit
card fraud, e-mail, and IP spoofing, logic bombs, data-diddling,
theft of intellectual property, and tampering with source code.
Nagaraj admits that since there is a paradigm
shift in technology every couple of months, not only do the officers
need regular training, they have to inevitably seek outside help.
There is, of course, no shortage of advisors in Bangalore. Nagaraj,
though, is chary of disclosing the names of it experts on the panel.
''We are glad to say that whenever we have approached it companies
for help, they have always rendered assistance,'' he says quickly.
''We even had experts from Pune help us crack a case.''
Sometimes, nothing helps...
...Like the Radio City case. Radio City is
an fm radio channel and part of the Star group. On December 20,
2001, company executives discovered that all the data on advertising
clients had been deleted from their network. And the two CDs on
which the back-ups had been taken had been irreparably damaged.
The police suspected an inside job, but they couldn't latch on to
IGP Nagaraj points to the various lacunae in
the it Act. ''We are ready to receive complaints online 24 hours
a day,'' he says. ''But unless digital signatures are authenticated,
complaints have to be manually registered.'' Then, e-mail threats
can only be prosecuted under the IPC and not the it Act. Punishments
are a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of Rs 2 lakh. That's
grossly low, compared to intellectual property valued at several
million dollars. ''Unless all the loopholes are plugged,'' says
the chief, ''punishing cyber crimes will be an uphill task.''