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|November 25, 1998||
M D Riti in Bangalore
Police constables in Karnataka, especially those posted in the IT savvy capital of Bangalore, are being trained to recognise and tackle computer crimes like hacking, software piracy, misappropriation of data and theft of telecommunications services.
Kodagu District Superintendent of Police Bhasker Rao has sparked this particular effort. Kodagu is also home to a police academy.
Why constables and not the more educated officers?
"My boys have all either passed pre-university or are graduates," explains Rao. "They are very receptive and ready to absorb knowledge. If they eventually turn out poorly trained, the fault lies with the trainers not the students. Discipline has become a one-way flow from the officers to lower personnel. And the human resource potential of the ranks is never tapped. I decided to change this."
Owing to the technical nature of crimes involving computers and telecommunications, enforcement personnel in some other countries are properly trained to conduct such investigations.
The Canadian Police College, for instance, offers three different computer crime courses covering everything from search and seizure of computer systems to examination of computers for evidence.
The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation has a National Computer Crime Squad to investigate computer crimes as they cross multiple state or international boundaries.
Often, two or more computers located in different states are associated with a crime and this is why a federal organisation is required to investigate them.
The NCCS investigates computer crimes like intrusions into telephone companies and major computer network, industrial espionage, privacy violations and software piracy.
Their personnel have degrees in computer sciences, prior work experience in industry and academic institutions, basic and advanced commercial training, knowledge of basic data and telecommunications networks and even experience with UNIX and other such operating systems.
"We lack the money or infrastructure to attempt anything on this scale. Besides, ours are transient posts," shrugs Karnataka Inspector General of Police, Training, K R Srinivasan. "We are not at all equipped to tackle computer-oriented crimes."
Rao agrees that the training they are imparting today is very crude and rudimentary. But it is a beginning. Rao only has the technical assistance of a couple of volunteers from a local computer-training institute. He supplements this by knowledge that can be sifted out from a few computer magazines!
"We begin by explaining the parts of a PC and then go on to teaching the basics of Windows. We also try to educate them about simple PC crimes that might proliferate in a place like Bangalore. Like, for instance, the misuse of automatic teller machines to withdraw money twice over, or simple foreign exchange violations."
At another level, it is hoped that these computer literate constables might also be able to use computers to maintain police records like data on crime.
Computer crimes like piracy are certainly rampant in Bangalore and the rest of the country. Software such as Microsoft Office sells at $3 (Rs 100). Many Indian consumers expect the operating system and word processing and spreadsheet software to be a sold with the computer at no extra cost.
Most grey market PCs come with all the software desired for no extra cost. That is made possible with the help of pirated intellectual property that is smuggled in from the Far East.
Despite the reduction in import duties for application software and absence of excise duties on local software, piracy continues to be high.
The National Association of Software and Service Companies periodically conducts raids to deter piracy. People giving tip-offs are given Rs 50,000 reward.
The first raid was conducted in 1996 with the help of the local police on an electrical company in Calcutta whose owner was caught red-handed using a pirated copy of a spreadsheet programme.
The estimated losses to software companies due to piracy in India were as high as Rs 5 billion in 1996.
A NASSCOM study attributes the losses to the rapid growth in the size of the domestic market. However, the study reveals that the percentage of software piracy in the country has come down only marginally. Piracy was as high as 76 per cent in May 1993.
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