India wants to secure Wi-Fi hotspots, citing terror threat

The Indian government plans to direct ISPs there to secure their Wi-Fi connections, citing the threat of terrorism.

Security experts and other citizens in Mumbai, India, are planning a drive to make people in the city and the rest of the country more aware of the need to secure their Wi-Fi networks.

The Indian federal government is also planning to direct Internet service providers to ensure the security of Wi-Fi connections, according to sources close to the situation.

The moves come after terrorists in India reportedly used a hacked Wi-Fi account in Mumbai to send an e-mail message to news organizations claiming responsibility for a series of bombs that went off in Delhi late on Saturday.

"If you do not lock your car and expect the police to protect it, that is going a bit too far. That's how it is with Wi-Fi," Mumbai's police commissioner Hasan Gafoor said on Tuesday at the launch of a citizen awareness program in Mumbai.

Officials at the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell of the Mumbai police declined to be interviewed for this story.

The revelation of the Wi-Fi hack further confirms the suspicions of the Indian government that terrorists in the country are using technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet to plan and execute attacks.

Another Wi-Fi account in Mumbai was reportedly hacked by terrorists to send mails to news organizations in July even as bombs were going off in Ahmedabad on the west coast of India.

A group calling itself Indian Mujahideen sent an email to several news organizations on Saturday claiming responsibility for the Delhi attacks. The same group had claimed responsibility for the attacks in Ahmedabad.

A family in Mumbai whose Wi-Fi was reportedly hacked told the Press Trust of India (PTI), a news agency in India, that police had traced the mail from the terrorists to their IP (Internet Protocol) address. The family did not feel the need to secure or protect their Wi-Fi account with a password, they told PTI on Sunday.

As the number of mobile phones in India and the number of Internet connections in the country grows, terrorists are increasingly turning to these technologies.

In a number of earlier terrorist attacks, mobile phones embedded in bombs were used to trigger off explosions, according to the police. The terrorists usually called up the number of the mobile phone inside the bomb to set it off.

Police in some states have taken measures to curb misuse of cyber cafes by terrorists and other criminals, including requiring users to produce proof of identity. Some social activists have however criticized the move as curbing the freedom of Internet users. The federal government is also planning to tighten the rules for the issuance of mobile phone connections, particularly insisting on stronger proofs of identity, according to sources.

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John Ribeiro

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