Indian Police Urged to Tap Cybercafes to Fight Terrorism

An organization in Mumbai, India has proposed that police use key-logging software at cybercafes to keep track of communications between terrorists.

Public computers at cyber cafes offer terrorists the anonymity they require, said Vijay Mukhi, president of the Foundation for Information Security and Technology (FIST) in Mumbai in a telephone interview late Tuesday. Terrorists are known to use instant messengers (IM) from companies like Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., and these companies do not share information from IM chats with the police, he added.

Keyloggers are software on a computer that record a user's key strokes--whatever the user types--on a computer keyboard. Data from keyloggers will be uploaded to centralized servers where it will be available to the police for scrutiny.

The move does not as yet have the approval of the Mumbai police.

The keyloggers would be activated centrally as and when a suspect walks into a cyber cafe or when suspicious activity is noted, Mukhi said.

A number of bloggers have criticized Mukhi's proposal, saying it will put personal data of ordinary individuals at risk. But some other blogs said that it is too small a price to pay to protect against loss of life from terrorism. The police should put in place a mechanism for citizens to seek redress from any misuse of their private information, Mukhi said.

Bomb blasts by terrorists have killed a large number of people in the country. In July last year, seven bombs planted in Mumbai's suburban trains killed over 200 people and injured another 700.

Terrorists are increasingly using the Internet to communicate with one another, as they are aware that telephone and mobile phones connections are under Indian government surveillance, according to Mukhi.

FIST, a non-profit organization in Mumbai, is focused on cyber-security and has worked with the police on related issues. It aims to get keyloggers on computers in cybercafes throughout India, Mukhi said.

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