G. Anand

A large section of the public could become vulnerable to cyber-crime

Thiruvananthapuram: At least 200 cases involving computer and Internet-related crimes are in different stages of investigation in various police stations in Kerala. A State Government Order issued on March 15, 2004 asking the Police Department to constitute a cyber police station for tackling such crimes has remained largely on paper, according to Home Department officials.

The bulk of the pending cases involves the use of computers for counterfeiting important Government documents, mainly currency notes, stamp papers, degree certificates and driving licences.

There are also a few cases involving theft of source codes of patented software programmes, defacing of websites and spreading of computer viruses.

A police official said that only very few of the computer-related crimes reported in the State have been registered under the Information Technology Act, 2000. Most of the cases have been registered as cheating, forgery, theft and indecent representation of women under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The police say that women are increasingly becoming victims of cyber-crime, mostly sexual harassment through malicious e-mails and posting of morphed pictures on pornographic websites. There have also been reports of use of "SMS Spoofing" software for sending hoax and obscene messages to unsuspecting cell phone users.

In Thiruvananthapuram, a married woman gave a complaint to the police recently stating that her morphed picture had been posted on a pornographic website along with her telephone number. In Kozhikode, the police are investigating a case relating to the defamation of a woman social activist on certain websites. In 2004, pranksters who floated a bogus "work at home" online scheme cheated more than 1,000 people in the State of large sums of money.

With the number of computer, Internet and mobile phone users increasing in the State, a large segment of the public could become vulnerable to cyber-crime. Currently, 32 policemen are being trained in cyber-crime investigation at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing here. The Government, on the initiative of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, had spent more than Rs.8 lakhs for the training course in June.

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