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Terror in the lap of technology

Jaipur, Thu, 25 Sep 2008 Madhuri Vasnani

The technology paraphernalia used by the terrorists now-a-days in their effort to execute their repugnant attacks throughout the world are astounding. One has to admit that once a technology is born, there is no way for it to be restricted on a long-term basis. Clearly the technologies that we are developing can be used in a bad way by the "evil doers" but the same way it can be used to put a check on such devastating attacks by mischievous elements too.

On July 26, 2008, 17 serial blasts rocked Ahmedabad, Gujarat within a span of 70 minutes killing at least 50 people and leaving over 200 injured at different places. Minutes before the blast, an email was sent by Islamic terrorists to some media outlets to stake the claim for the blasts.

The email was traced to an American living in Mumbai, who was using a Wi-Fi router in his rented flat. Apparently his Wi-Fi connection was somehow misused by terrorists to send the email without his knowledge.

Similarly, a computer hacker using the vulnerability of wireless technology took over the computer server of a small US airport and turned off the runway landing lights, which could have resulted in a serious loss of life. This is a window of vulnerability that we must immediately examine and take steps to close.

Terrorists are using wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) networks to send emails at the time of conducting bomb explosions. In lieu of this, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is examining a series of measures to have security processes in place to protect such networks.

Earlier, TRAI had asked government to direct Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for proper verification and maintenance of such networks. Also, security agencies have asked the Government to make password protection compulsory for every customer using a Wi-Fi network.

Terrorists involved in the five blasts in Delhi on September 13, 2008 sent e-mails to the media agencies just before the bombing took place, cautioning the authorities of their action. Using an e-mail system to warn of attacks does not demand knowledge of high technology. Terrorists would not visit the same cybercafe for the second time where access is safe.

The security of Wi-Fi connections is very apt and user-friendly. There should be expansion of monitoring of e-mail traffic by security agencies in order to intercept messages in countering terrorism. Also, the need of the hour is to enhance capacity of police to keep a track of developments in cyberspace.

Moreover, it is illegal to intrude into another’s wireless connection. While taking a look at the latest happenings of bomb explosions in Ahmedabad and Delhi, it has become extremely essential where the wrongdoers have misused e-mail accounts from Wi-Fi subscribers.

Modern technology has its own advantages as well as disadvantages. If properly utilised for the benefit of humanity would prove fruitful and if utilised in unlawful manner would lead to disaster.

*The author of this article is currently working as the Assistant Editor at CUTS International, Jaipur. She can be reached at madhurivasnani@rediffmail.com

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