Continuous Monitoring , Cybersecurity , Governance

Kerala Police Plan Cyber Innovation Center

CyberDome via PPP Model to Help Fight Online Crime
Kerala Police Plan Cyber Innovation Center

Given the steep rise in cybercrime complaints in the state, owing to digitalization and rapid modernization, the Kerala State Police are commissioning a CyberDome - a high-tech cybersecurity and innovation center, via public/private partnership, to tackle cybercrime.

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Coming up in a month on the premises of IT hub Technopark in a 3000-5000 sq ft area, CyberDome will be the specialized agency for all matters of crime investigation and monitoring, and act as an advisory to all cyber cells across the state.

According to Manoj Abraham, Inspector General of Police and nodal officer of Kerala Police CyberDome, the center is envisioned as a primary monitoring unit for the Internet and the nodal centre for policing social networking sites and anti-terror activities in cyberspace.

"The objective is to prevent cybercrime," Abraham says. "At present, we act after a cybercrime case is reported."

Coimbatore-based S N Ravichandran, cyber investigator and member of the Cyber Society of India and DSCI, says the concept sounds good, but he does question its practicality.

"The first challenge would be to monitor the Internet and all tweets, messages and chats without a complaint, which in a way would be a violation of the fundamental right of freedom and expression," Ravichandran says. In addition, "Involving private bodies without specifying their roles, responsibilities and accountability would lead to misuse and abuse of information gathered."

Why Kerala Needs CyberDome

According to the Kerala police, this center will be set up in the wake of emerging challenges and increasing threats faced on the net which targeted not only individuals and enterprises, but also the basic unity and integrity of the state.

Besides, "The major challenges have been security being highly technical for officials to understand, rapidly changing technology, lack of governance structure, cumbersome protection procedures, lack of awareness, non-cooperation by employees, prevalence of anonymity over the web, etc." Abraham says.

Thiruvananthapuram-based Vinaykumaran Nair, head of hi-tech crime enquiry cell, Police headquarters, says there are 50 cases of cybercrime registered daily and about 50,000 cyber complaints brought to the notice of the department.

"It's increasingly difficult to handle complaints without a proper cybersecurity center and participation from public and private bodies," says Nair.

Abraham reiterates, "We have problems in combating cybercrime owing to cross-border crime, mostly from Gulf countries, lack of resources, lack of international collaboration, crime becoming organised, and lack of an early warning system, among others."

CyberDome's Modus Operandi

With CyberDome, Kerala Police's key objective is to bridge the digital divide in tackling cybercrime through public, private and academia participation.

"We'd like to work with Interpol, academia, research groups, private organizations and the government to build this initiative," Abraham says.

Some key objectives of CyberDome are to:

  • Serve as a hub for public-private participation in cybersecurity;
  • Conduct and foster cybersecurity research;
  • Serve as high-tech resource center in cybercrime investigation;
  • Provide cybersecurity training to private and public sectors.

Leveraging partnerships being the key focus, Abraham says the plan is as follows:

  • Police department will procure the hardware, while the establishment cost of the center can be driven by a shared model from the private and public sectors;
  • Software companies will be asked to provide technical expertise in assisting police in crime monitoring, policing the web, investigating cybercrime by building customised software;
  • The center will be headed by a deputy superintendent of police rank officer and have 10 competent officers to support him;
  • It will be the nodal center for policing social networking sites and create awareness campaigns by the police over the net;
  • It will also act as an innovation unit developing new software for the department to tackle cybercrime.

"We have more than 500 ethical hackers, cybersecurity experts, IT professionals registered with us," Abraham says. "We will leverage the expertise in tracking criminals and fighting crime."

Experts' Expectations

Most security experts interviewed for this story argue that CyberDome should provide security innovations in technological and operational sphere of cybersecurity, with much depending upon the leadership from law enforcement agencies in dealing with cybercrime.

Coimbatore-based Pradeep Menon, chief officer, Lakshya Labs, says, "A new center will give a much-needed fillip to combating cybercrime, but much depends on effectively leveraging operational capabilities of law enforcement and advanced technological prowess from the private sector."

As a priority, Menon believes it is crucial to form a strategic advisory council including senior members from the industry and the home department, to lay down broad terms of reference to review the progress of the working plan.

"A working level council which meets more often than the advisory council and draws in specialists from different areas of cybersecurity including cyber analytics, cybersecurity forensics, cyberlaw etc., can help develop detailed working plans based on the strategic directions provided by the strategic level advisory council," Menon says.

However, critics question whether the body will be restricted to Kerala alone, or if it will be active in other states. Will the software and hardware be indigenous or will it involve foreign companies; if so, will it be a challenge for national security?

Says Ravichandran, "Get the cyber cells properly organized, equipped and trained to tackle and prosecute reported crime, while preparing the groundwork for effective implementation of the existing laws."

Experts recommend the center should:

  • Monitor internet traffic including social networking sites within the state for illegal activities including terrorist activities;
  • Act as an advanced early warning and detection center for cybercrime and provide actionable intelligence to take action before it becomes an incident;
  • Be equipped with advanced cyber forensics investigation techniques to investigate various cybersecurity incidents and cybercrime and nab the perpetrators at the quickest possible time;
  • Make available various cybersecurity tools for parental controls and enforcement in cyberspace.

"Our thrust is on establishing effective networking between law enforcement agencies, the IT industry, cybersecurity experts across regions and nations on deriving the best practices in tackling cybercrime," Abraham says.

About the Author

Geetha Nandikotkur

Geetha Nandikotkur

Managing Editor, Asia & the Middle East, ISMG

Nandikotkur is an award-winning journalist with over 20 years' experience in newspapers, audio-visual media, magazines and research. She has an understanding of technology and business journalism, and has moderated several roundtables and conferences, in addition to leading mentoring programs for the IT community. Prior to joining ISMG, Nandikotkur worked for 9.9 Media as a Group Editor for CIO & Leader, IT Next and CSO Forum.

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