India unleashes cyber cops

India has established cyber crime police units around the country after a surge of hack attacks on its computer systems.

Shri Sachin Pilot, India's minister of state for IT and communications, said in a statement today that "cyber crime cells" had been set up by state police and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

India was suffering increasing numbers of cyber crimes, he said, mostly from unidentifiable hackers outside the country.

Recent intrusions on government computer systems included malicious email attachments, website defacements and scanning and probing. Application vulnerabilities had given cyber crooks a back door into Indian data centres.

India shot up the rankings of national victims in Symantec's Global Internet Security Threat Report last month. It endured the fifth most number of computer security breaches in 2009, after the US, China, Brazil and Germany. The UK was sixth.

India was 11th in the 2008 victim rankings. Though it was among the biggest victims in 2009, it was not in the top table of the biggest hosts of cyber crime. Of those countries that were the origin of cyber attacks India ranked 18th in 2009.

The US and China were first and second-most greatest sources of cyber attacks. The UK was the fourth greatest malicious host, after Germany.

But people in countries from which cyber crimes originate may not necessarily be responsible. The computers that host the attacks may have themselves been taken over by people from other countries, conceded Pilot.

"Malicious activity tends to increase in countries experiencing rapid growth in broadband infrastructure and connectivity, and the level of malicious activity occurring in India has been increasing steadily over several reporting periods as its broadband infrastructure and user base grows," said Symantec's report last month.

Pilot said today in a parliamentary written answer that India had embarked on a "major programme on cyber forensics" and a training programme to endow police and judiciary with the means to collect digital evidence.