India: Cyber-brigade beware, bugs are on the byte : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sunday 14 May 2000 Cyber-brigade beware, bugs are on the byte By Shabnam Minwalla

MUMBAI: Having a creepy-crawly sneak into the office is disruptive enough. But if the pest in question smashes your fax machine, chews up vital bank documents and then, taking a cue from your address book, wreaks similar havoc among your acquaintances, the consequences could prove dreadful.

This is something that the computerised world is realising. For, while Nariman Point is mercifully bereft of such devious intruders, all manner of worms and wAreZ d00dZ lurk in the swamps of the virtual world. And, if the pandemonium over the last 10 days is any indication, the destruction they cause is very real.

So, if Melissa, the macro-virus of 1999, spawned damage of $80 million, Lovebug (already more of a household name than plasmodium falciparum) has crossed the $10 billion mark.

Little wonder then that computer security has once again become a hot issue --and although India's cyber-brigade escaped major damage, experts warn that it is susceptible. ``That such outbreaks should be isolated to certain countries goes against the fundamentals of connectivity,'' says Nadir Karanjia of N and N Systems and Software, a prominent bug-buster. ``Viruses and hacker-attacks are routine in India.''

Indeed, at a time when everybody from Kalbadevi traders to Indore raddiwallas are discovering the wonders of technology, when portals have replaced temporary tattoos as the teenage `must do' of the moment, computers are gaining ground in India. According to Nasscomm, 820,000 new PCs were sold in India during the last financial year, and a dizzying number of dotcoms have sprung up in the city.

``More and more companies are computerising themselves, setting up internal networks and eventually connecting to the Internet. They are exposing themselves to risks they have not faced before,'' says G. Shrikanth of IT Secure. Adds Viraj Sawant of DBS Internet, ``When these companies get into areas like online stock-trading and banking, the implications are serious.''

It is, clearly, a jungle out there, with all manner of beasts and baddies on the prowl. So, an `Ebola' or `Bubbleboy' cooked up in Indonesia and targeted at an American government department could well destroy data in an Indian bank. Or a hacker sitting in Brazil could train his sights on an Indian portal and pull off spectacular credit card frauds.

``What we have today is a huge matrix of computers, constantly talking with each other,'' says Mr Karanjia. ``Today, there are 51,390 known viruses, and 350 new ones are cooked up every week. Then there are all those hackers sniffing around out there. When you keep your computer door open, information is clearly not the only thing that enters.'' Adds Mr Sawant, pointing out that much more protection is required than the usual dated version of an anti-virus software, ``Only the paranoid will survive.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 14, 2000


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-- Martin Thompson (, May 14, 2000.

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