The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cops to police cyber space

Mumbai, Aug. 21: Mumbai police are making a giant leap from the underworld to the cyberworld in its fight against crime.

The cyber cell of Mumbai police has drawn up plans to protect citizens from cyber fraud — sexual and criminal — during the first-ever cyber safety week in India.

Among the steps being considered is a plan to regulate the functioning of the burgeoning cyber cafes in the city. Senior officers in the cyber cell said Internet dhabas and cyber cafes may be asked to make photo-identity cards mandatory for customers. Minors will not be allowed unless accompanied by adults.

Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said at the inauguration of the cyber safety week that the cyber world was too large to regulate, but the police are undeterred.

Bhujbal had said the police will face problems in dealing with such crimes because “the cyber criminal’s brain may be in one country, his hand in another and yet there may be an explosion in Mumbai’’.

“But we have to beat the odds,’’ says deputy commissioner of police (enforcement) Pradnya Sarvade. The commissioner, who also heads the cyber cell, says Internet-related complaints are on the rise, though many people are still unsure how to register such complaints.

Sarvade said Mumbai police were forced to take drastic measures because cyber crimes have increased and cyber stalkers and paedophiles pose “a very serious threat to society at large’’.

The thousands of cyber cafes across the city could also be directed to delete all pornography-related programmes and “lock’’ such websites.

The police also plan to launch a massive awareness programme aimed at Internet users.

Ahmad Javed, joint commissioner (law and order), hopes the crackdown on cyber criminals will fetch results. “We are equipped to handle cyber crimes and criminals but there has to be support from the ordinary person using the Internet, owners of cyber cafes and service providers.’

Mumbai police know things will not be easy with no stringent cyber laws in place and a vociferous anti-cyber monitoring lobby at work.

Two years ago, the Mumbai police website was hacked and made inoperational. There was also the case of a former Ambuja Cement general manager who fleeced a Dubai-based Indian of Rs 96 lakh. The cell managed to arrest Pranab Parimal Mitra, who posed as a woman and is now in jail, only after months of tracking.

The police will also find that most cafes think nothing of enticing customers with the latest pornography websites. Some even provide software related to it.

Giridhar Patel, who owns a cyber cafe in Worli, is not sure if the initiative will fetch results. “Most of the business comes from young boys spending hours browsing through pornography sites and chatting dirty. Cafe owners don’t want to lose them and also, it is very difficult to keep track of what they are doing all the time. Many cafes have well-enclosed cubicles and nobody wants to disturb their customers. Who knows what goes inside.”

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