Kerala

Cyberdome: A sturdy wall to deflect attacks

Many ethical hackers, expert coders, and software experts offer their service for free at Cyberdome.  

Cyberdome is based at an inconspicuous office on the Technopark campus here in Thiruvananthapuram. It is the Kerala Police Department’s premier facility dedicated to prevent cybercrime and mitigate cybersecurity threats to the State’s critical information infrastructure.

A motley crew of ethical hackers, expert coders, youth prodigies skilled in software, law enforcers and civilian volunteers huddle behind flickering computer terminals at the office, with most of them offering their services for free. They are the State law enforcement’s first line of defence against a range of online threats.

In March 2017, Cyberdome notched up a remarkable victory when it forewarned the Kerala government of a possible ransomware attack.

An indication of the assault came as an e-mail to the All India Institute of Local Self Government here. The mail contained a vexing message. “All your documents, photos, databases, and other important personal files were encrypted using strong RSA-1024 algorithm with a unique key. To restore your files you have to pay 0.25461 BTC (bitcoins),” it said.

A fortnight later, the ransomware attack that spanned continents hit India. It locked out millions of users and government services from their computers. Kerala was largely spared.

Later in September, the then Chief Secretary K.M. Abraham revealed that ethical hackers working for Cyberdome had exposed a vital security vulnerability in the State’s Integrated Financial Management System. He said ADGP Manoj Abraham, nodal officer, Cyberdome, had sent him a private note outlining the security chinks in the system that handled large amounts of public funds, including tax remittances.

Cyberdome has developed cyber-surveillance tools to detect and convict those responsible for industrial espionage. The tools unearth moles that lie deep in critical information networks and siphon off data clandestinely.

Taming Blue Whale

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had lauded Cyberdome for its successful propaganda war against online games such as Blue Whale. The game, which encourages youngsters to engage in death-defying daredevilry, had caused a few deaths in the country and spawned concern among parents.

Of late, Cyberdome has used social engineering as the lynchpin of its policing strategy to snoop on radical groups that use the net for extremist activities.

Law enforcers often use deception as a tool to insinuate themselves into such shadowy groups. They use fictitious online identities to manipulate suspects about divulging actionable information.

Of late, Cyberdome has launched a covert cyber-surveillance and infiltration programme to crack down on child pornography.

Images of children captured furtively on mobile phones are increasingly finding their way to porn websites, and Kerala is a significant contributor. The operation, code-named P-Hunt, resulted in the arrest of 22 persons in March.

Cyber tools against child porn

Last month, the State police and Cyberdome partnered with the Interpol and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMC) to combat child porn. The entities have cobbled together an international alliance that entails transfer and development of the latest artificial intelligence-powered cyber tools to crack down on a wide range of crimes.

The Interpol has granted the State police access to its latest cyber investigation tool, the Internet Crimes Against Children and Child Online Protective Services (ICACCOPS) programme.

It helps law enforcers conduct targeted surveillance of persons who share and trade child pornography on peer-to-peer user networks.


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 5:00:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-sturdy-wall-deflects-attacks/article29479100.ece

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