Terrorists have 15,000 Options

Mumbai Mirror

  • Industry body estimates that’s the number of unsecured wi-fi connections, belonging mostly to individual Mumbaikars and small businesses in the city, vulnerable to misuse 

Mumbai, Sep 15: There are an estimated 15,000 wi-fi networks in the city that are vulnerable to terrorists like the ones who used the wi-fi networks of an American businessman and an entrepreneur couple from Chembur to send e-mails to various media companies minutes before the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on July 26 and a little after the first of five bombs exploded in Delhi on Saturday evening.

Investigators, as of now, do not suspect any wrong-doing on the part of US national Kenneth Haywood whose network was hacked before the Ahmedabad blasts and the Kamaths who own Kamran Power Control Pvt Ltd whose wi-fi network was used to send the e-mail in connection with the Delhi blasts.

But like Haywood, the Kamaths ended up spending considerable time answering questions from the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) because they never even dreamed that not securing their wi-fi network would one day embroil them in an investigation into a terrorist attack.

They learnt their lesson the hard way but there are still at least 15,000 Mumbaikars who might meet the same fate if they do not take steps to secure their wi-fi connections.

The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) says there are an estimated 40,000 wi-fi connections in the city. Of these, only about 25,000 have been secured. The rest are open to abuse by terror elements. Most belong to individuals or small commercial establishments, such as those of Haywood and the Kamaths.

Vijay Mukhi, chairman of FICCI's IT cell, says, “While large commercial establishments secure their networks, it's generally the small businesses and individuals who do not deem it necessary to do so, as it does not affect them directly or hurt them financially.”

ATS chief Hemant Karkare seconds Mukhi's views.

“There is definitely an urgent need to secure wi-fi networks. Every unsecured network faces the probability of being used by terrorists.

“Anyone using an unsecured wi-fi network could land in unnecessary trouble.”

It is important to secure networks, say experts, because of the difficulty in tracing the sender of an e-mail sent by hacking into a wi-fi network.

“There is no technology as yet to trace the sender of the e-mail if it has been sent by illegally accessing an unsecured wi-fi network,” says Mukhi.

This is probably the reason for the ATS's inability to track down the person who sent the e-mail from Haywood's wi-fi network on July 26 despite his computers being sent to all possible forensic labs in the city.

Help was also sought from Purdue University in the US, but in vain.

The Haywood experience has certainly made the investigating agencies wiser.

The Kamaths were not put through too many gruelling sessions of questioning nor have their computers been seized, like in the case of Haywood.

Only their computers were scanned on Saturday to find if there was any incriminating material left on its hard disk.

An ATS officer says, “There is no point wasting our energy in trying to trace the sender of the e-mail. The Haywood incident taught us that it is impossible to trace the sender. We are focusing on nabbing the culprits through other means.”

Dos and Don’ts for Wireless networks

• Before using your wireless router turn on security
• Use WPA security, not WEP
• Turn on Access Control
• Change the Web Administrators password
• Change the SSID.
• Turn off SSID broadcasts
• Place the router in a physically secure place
• Turn off File and Printer sharing
• Change client side IP address
• Upgrade to latest software and hardware.


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