Mumbai police install tracking software in city's cyber cafes

Published 11 September 2007

Mumbai is India’s hi-tech hub, and the city police will now have access to new software monitoring activity in the more than 500 cyber cafes in the city

Mumbai is the business center of India, with hundreds of hi-tech companies and tens of thousands of tech savvy residents. Not surprisingly, the city also boasts more than 500 cyber cafes. During the past two years, Islamic terrorists have targeted the city in a series of bombings, and the city police are now tightening security, and will soon have khabris deployed (not physically) at these popular Internet cafes. A new software will allow cops to swoop down on terrorists the moment a keystroke is pressed at any cyber café across the city. The deployment of the surveillance software was prompted by investigations into the recent Hyderabad and Mumbai blasts, investigations which revealed that the planning was done using the Internet, especially chat rooms.

Terrorists around the world prefer the Internet to communicate with each other — and prefer to do so from a public place such as a cyber cafe or a public library. Vijay Mukhi, President of the Foundation for Information Security and Technology says that terrorists know that if they use machines at home, they can be caught, and that cybercafes give them the anonymity they want. “The police needs to install programs that will capture every key stroke at regular interval screen shots, which will be sent back to a server that will log all the data. The police can then keep track of all communication between terrorists no matter, which part of the world they operate from.This is the only way to patrol the net and this is how the police informer is going to look in the e-age,” added Mukhi.

The Mumbai police are in dialogue with M/s Micro Technologies for procuring a software called CARMS (Cyber Access Remote Monitoring System), a monitoring tool aiming to help in curbing cyber crime. CARMS monitors web browsing, file transfers, news, chats, messaging, and e-mail, including all encoded attachments. In a sensitive environment, CARMS can also be used to restrict user or group access only to approved external and internal sites, explained a company official. All cyber cafes in the city will now need a police license to keep their business going. All cafes need to register at the police headquarters and provide details on the number of computers installed, type of computers, and technical details like the IP address of each machine.

You may want to know that in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. intelligence community also opened several cyber cafes in which the computers and Internet activity were monitored (not only by tracking key strokes, but also by having surveillance cameras taking pictures of those who used them). Trouble was, those in charge of the operation appeared not to have realized that in order to discover terrorist activities being hatched in such cafes, the terrorists must first be lured into these places. In one such cafe in our neighborhood, the coffee and baked goods on sale were so bad, and the service so unprofessional — the barristas and waitresses, after all, were trained intelligence officers, not true restaurant employees — that the cafe was largely empty for the many months it was in operation, and eventually closed. We still remember visitors to the cyber cafe — people who had no clue what the real purpose of the establishment was — opining that it must be operated by the government, becasue no private owner would stay in business for long with that level of service.