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WARNING for chatters


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He chatted in sister-in-law's name to get her entangled in the sleazy 'web

Wednesday August 4 2004 00:49 IST

CHENNAI: One evening, Veni (name changed on request) was expecting a call from her husband. The phone rang, but it was not her husband. “When can I come? How much do you charge for an hour,†asked a lecherous tone on the other end. A shaken Veni banged the phone down. It was just the beginning. She was hounded by many more calls.

Summoning courage, she asked one caller what exactly he wanted. The caller said he had seen her photograph and a soliciting message on Yahoo's profiles. A shocked Veni confided in her husband and they got in touch with a friend who was a software professional. With his help they contacted Yahoo, and her profile was erased.

However, it was not the end of the problems for them. The callers then called to claim Veni was chatting with them and that she herself had given them her number.

At their wit's end, the couple contacted the Cyber Crime Cell of Chennai police. “Armed with just the Yahoo Messenger user-ID, we set out to nab the culprit,†says S Balu, Assistant Commissioner, Cyber Crime. The cybercops tracked down the terminal from which the miscreant was chatting in the name of Veni.

The result was a surprise for the police. It was the same address from which the complaint was filed - Veni's house. Plainclothesmen were sent to Veni's house and there in the first floor, they found her husband's younger brother, all of 17 years, chatting under her name.

It was the teenager's way of getting even with Veni over a misunderstanding in the family.

Since it became a family affair, the couple did not want to press charges and the youngster was let off.

In a similar case, a former classmate of an MBA graduate in Chennai had splurged her photographs along with inviting messages on the Internet. “In most of these cases, the culprits are either well-known to the victim or a relative,†says Balu.

These isolated incidents of personal vendetta are only a part of crimes committed in the vast Worldwide Web. There are other cases like hacking, spam and online credit card frauds. In Chennai alone, in the past one year, there have been 38 petitions of obscene messages, 11 of cheating, six of threats and six petitions of cheating filed.

But is the city's Cyber Crime Cell well-equipped to handle it? No. All that they have at their disposal is a team comprising one Assistant Commissioner, one Inspector, two Sub-Inspectors and two technicians, who are engineering graduates. Did we mention the solitary terminal that they are equipped with?

The Cyber Crime Cell does not even have a functional cyber lab, leave alone a full-fledged one. Apart from the e-mail tracking and a few other basic software, the police has nothing of note to tackle cyber crime. “We have requested for more equipment and facilities,†is the official line.

The cell came into being in February 2003. Till now there have been close to 80 petitions. “Out of these, we have filed cases on 13 occasions. The rest, we found, were biased and motivated ones by either disgruntled employees or former employers,†says Balu.

“Even though the police are ill-equipped,†Balu maintains, “that they have cracked most cases and did not press charges as the culprit and victim were known to each other, either by acquaintance or by relation. They do not want their family's reputation to be sullied and hence they withdraw the complaint,†he says.

A major problem in cyber crime is that unless action is taken fast, it becomes difficult. The Internet is a huge maze and data is lost without a trace within a matter of days. “If there is more awareness among the public, we are sure we can do a good job if we get all the equipment,†an officer said.

Whatever the case, one may rest assured that it would be a tough call for the Cyber Crime Cell if any major cyber crime happened in the city.

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