Gap in mobile network security raises chance for criminals says expert

NEW DELHI: Criminals or hackers can track your calling pattern on the mobile and create a "digital DNA" of yours that they can use to hack into your data or finances, an expert in the subject said at the international conference on 'Telecom Security India 2003' yesterday.

Speaking at the conference yesterday (25 September), Voxtron Dezign president Karanvir Singh said, the new GPRS networks are particularly vulnerable to such hacking. But, he also assured that there are ways to secure them against such criminals.

Singh told delegates at the two-day conference, organised by Convergence Plus, that even in the existing mobile networks, the costly infrastructure created by the operators enabling legal interception to prevent hacking is not being adequately used by intelligence agencies.

Referring to the terrorist attack on the Parliament on 13 December 2001, Singh pointed out that the attack was possible because the surveillance agencies did not bother to scan messages on the mobile network through the software to connect mobile to laptop provided by one of Delhi's cellular operators.

This lapse was used by the terrorists who planned the attack to keep in touch with one another and their operational brains. Singh regretted that the government did not have a budget for monitoring the networks and even the consumers were not aware of such surveillance to protect them against hacking and other criminal activities.

In the United States, the National Security Agency had a $5 billion budget only for network surveillance against criminals and terrorists using these networks, he said.

India's Telecom Commission Member (Services) PK Chanda, who inaugurated the conference, agreed that the integration of mobile phones with Internet and other platforms had left them vulnerable to criminals and hackers and there was a need to secure data on them against such criminal intent.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Dr Ashok Khemka, director and joint secretary, Electronics and IT Department, government of Haryana, said that there is a need for a separate "prevention of computer misuse act" to protect data privacy, punish hackers and criminals who misuses computer systems reassuring security of networks.

Presenting the keynote address at the conference, Khemka, who is in charge of promoting e-commerce and e-governance systems in Haryana said that the present IT Act is not able to deal with new crimes.

The promotion of e-commerce and e-governance including such systems as e-cash are critically dependent on a universal standard for data protection, Khemka said. He added that even in Indian rural areas, payment systems like e-cash is workable if proper network security is ensured, promoting e-commerce and e-governance in India.

In the US, e-commerce transactions have already reached $230 billion, which amounts to 10 per cent of transactions. "In India we feel very insecure to use credit card numbers on the networks due to the loopholes in legal system," he pointed out.

Earlier Convergence Plus' chief Prem Behl in his welcome address, enunciated the need of security in telecommunications, which was driving the economy in India.

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