India's first cyber crime police station has been launched in the country's high tech capital, Bangalore, in southern India.
Part of a national drive to tackle cyber crime, it will become fully operational on 15 September. The new venture is seeking expert help from some of India's leading software specialists. "This is the first cyber police station in the country. It has jurisdiction across the state," said Karnataka state director general of police VV Bhaskar.
Growing concern India's leading crime-fighting agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), is assisting regional states to fight cyber crime. In focus will be crimes such as:
destruction and theft of intellectual property.
Police say sophisticated criminals could damage telecommunications or rail links, disrupt power supplies and harm other major Indian infrastructure. The CBI has sought help from several foreign agencies, including the United States-based Federal Bureau of Investigation, in countering cyber crimes. The cyber crime station, to be housed in the headquarters of the Corps of Detectives, will be run with the help of leading software company Infosys and a premier research organisation, Indian Institute of Science, both based in Bangalore.
"In the new economy which is the digital economy, white-collar crime will be on the increase," said Professor N Balakrishnan, chairman of the Super Computer Research Centre of the Indian Institute of Science. "We are no experts in crime detection but in technology we will provide all the expertise."
Cyber crime has the potential to "enormously damage the socio economic fabric of the society", Mr Bhaskar said. "The internet can be abused, where there is abuse, police will move in," he added. "The idea is to investigate quickly borderless cyber crimes," says R Srikumar, a senior police official and the brains behind the project.
Mr Srikumar was one of the key officials in a special investigation team that tracked down the assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The cyber crime station will tackle internet time theft, and the use of the internet for terrorist activities, pornography, e-mail abuse and online gambling and betting. It will also keep a close watch on the growing sexual abuse of children through the internet. A slew of porno sites will be brought under scrutiny. India's Ministry of Information Technology has already made a public appeal against the "undesirable exposure of children to sexually-explicit and other harmful content over the internet".
Often known as India's Silicon Valley, Bangalore was the ideal venue for the launch of the country's first virtual police station. "The people in the industry all over the world look towards Bangalore for inspiration on how to fight cyber crime. That is the kind of reputation this city has," Mr Srikumar said. The response to the unique concept has been positive.
"The idea certainly is good. As the internet penetrates into India, it is important for regulations and implementation of the regulations also to come in at the right moment," said K Vaitheeswaran of Fabmart India, a popular retail e-commerce site based in Bangalore. "This will work. The system is in place and it is better than what other developing countries are doing," said Professor Balakrishnan of the Indian Institute of Science.
Police believe cyber laws ratified in parliament last year have equipped them with enough powers to tackle cyber crime. It helped the Calcutta police recently in charging two people for cyber crimes. Two software engineers were accused of stealing data and destroying the software of a medical transcription company. If convicted, they can be sentenced to three years' imprisonment and fined up to 10 million rupees ($212,000).