IT Jihad

published on March 20, 2010

They are writing malignant software

NEW DELHI: Recent security audits of some of the top software firms, including Indian MNCs headquartered in Bangalore, have revealed that some of
their employees are in touch with jihadi elements in Pakistan, via the internet, or are surfing and posting messages on radical Islamic sites and blogs during their work hours.

The cyber security audits at the software majors started almost three months ago and are still continuing, sources in the security establishment told ET. The adverse findings, pointing to internet exchanges between employees and suspected jihadists using their respective firm’s web systems, have been reported to the police and intelligence agencies for further probe.

Incidentally, the audit of cyber systems at all major software firms came in the wake of receipt of terror e-mails by five Bangalore-based IT firms early this year threatening to blow up their premises. The e-mails had then led the Bangalore police to immediately tighten security at all the threatened firms, which included Infosys and Wipro.

A cyber security audit includes tracking the internet accounts and web history logs of employees of the software firm in question, particularly the social networking sites they visit and the content of their posts and messages. This is essentially to filter and identify any criminal or jihadi link they may establish during their work hours, besides scanning internet exchanges aimed at indoctrination or radicalisation of the employees, a senior official in the security establishment told ET.

The audit findings over the last three months have thrown up disturbing facts. Some software professionals employed with these firms were found to be regularly exchanging e-mails and messages, laced with jihadi references, with servers based in Pakistan.
A few others were surfing interactive jihad-preaching sites, which points to an attempt by tech-savvy terrorists to influence and indoctrinate software professionals for a possible internal sabotage against the country’s flourishing information technology industry.

Some of the leading software majors have already reported such findings of their internal cyber audits to the local police and intelligence agencies for further investigation. This is expected to help identify the terror elements that may have infiltrated into the software industry.

It is a well-known fact that the profile of a terrorist has undergone a makeover in the recent times — from a madrasa-educated small town-dweller to a professionally-trained person with a white-collar job in an urban centre.

“Some of the IT employees found indulging in suspicious internet activity are well-to-do professionals who devote a very small part of their day at work to carry out their jihadi agenda,” an intelligence official pointed out adding that this gave them the perfect cover while executing their jihadi plans.

IT industry, incidentally, figures high on the list of potential targets. With most terrorist outfits now aiming for economic targets in their bid to hit at economic well-being of the country, the Indian software industry — a world leader — is seen as the most vulnerable after the more strategic oil sector. It is against this background that the government recently extended CISF cover to Infosys’ premises.

Infosys was among the five prominent IT firms that received terror e-mails at the beginning of 2010, threatening to blow up their buildings. Though the threats were not followed by any terror attack, the Bangalore police has been investigating the source of the terror e-mails.

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