National security, globalisation, attrition, weddings et al

Came across this article where the US intelligence has successfully penetrated almost all levels of Indian institutions (institutions which are critical and which matter).  Its a real shame.  Just shows how ineffective our agencies are.  Also a great deal of demotivation and attrition seems to have come over these agencies – which makes things even worse.  If the US has been able to do it – then its no surprise that the Chinese, Pakis, Russians would have also penetrated these.  The Russians have always had a field day in India – but now we have newer entrants.  Can we imagine a successful penetration of the Chinese and American instititutions by Indian agencies!!! Most certainly no.  We have a long long way to go.  Donno if we will ever get there.  But do I feel too much about it – no I dont!!!!! Doesn’t seem to be making a difference to my immediate life.  But the repurcissions and the bad feeling of being compromised at a national level – IS DEFINITELY THERE.  Read on.  Also don’t end with this article as there is a lot more after this article:

When India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998, the US got a shock of significant magnitude. CIA officials said they did not know about the tests until then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went on television to announce it four hours after the event. Till then, the seismic data, from which the test could have been detected, had apparently not been analysed yet. The fleets of US spy satellites had been fooled; the multi-billion dollar intelligence network of the only superpower on earth had egg on its face.

This spurred the US to focus on its intelligence gathering in India. It would appear that the efforts have borne fruit.

If the suspicions being expressed by Indian intelligence agents are true, the US may now be in possession of information on India’s war plans for the army, navy and air force. The atomic energy establishment, which no foreign agency is known to have breached significantly in the past, may also have been compromised. Even ISRO data is thought to have leaked to the US spy agencies. Put together, it represents a leak of massive proportions.

It happened because of some smart work on the part of the US agents, and the curious ‘chalta-hai’ type of loophole that is so typical of India. The National Security Council Secretariat — the repository of all this information — is not secured anywhere near as well as the individual intelligence agencies and military headquarters are. In fact, even its staff comprises a large number of part-timers on short contracts. Many of them receive meagre salaries in the range of Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 a month.

The story so far is that SS Paul, a disgruntled computer analyst with the NSCS, passed on secret data from NSCS computers to Rosanne Minchew, third secretary in the US embassy in Delhi, for $50,000 (Rs 23 lakh). He did this by storing the data on USB drives and taking it out. The operation was on for about a year. Paul eventually got caught because a wing of Delhi Police knew Minchew’s role in the US embassy. They put her mobile under observation and found she was receiving SMS’ from a number that turned out to be Paul’s. He was put under surveillance, and was found to be passing classified information to her.

Investigations in the case showed that Paul had been introduced to Minchew by Commander Mukesh Saini of the NSCS. Saini was the man heading the National Information Security Coordination Cell, and was an important part of the Indo-US Cyber Security Forum. In his capacity as National Information Security coordinator, he was in touch with sector cyber security officers and systems administrators in various ministries, departments and security forces. Investigators now believe Paul was not the only one who Saini introduced to US intelligence. At least five others are under suspicion for passing information to Paul, who passed it further to Minchew.

The case has prompted the Intelligence Bureau to ban cell phones with advanced features from its premises. It already has software, specially developed for its use, to detect the use of USB drives on its intranet. This software logs the time a USB drive is inserted into a computer and the time it is taken out, gives the ID of the computer and its user, and lists the files accessed. The log report is sent to a designated computer.

This software was not deployed at the NSCS. Sensitive ministries and departments also don’t have this software.

However the problem is being seen by experts as more human than technical. If the people tasked with cyber security themselves sell out, it can’t be considered a technical failure, they point out.

Cyber security expert Subimal Bhattacharjee points out that India does not have a policy on critical infrastructure protection. Moreover, security systems are not properly deployed, he adds, otherwise checks and balances would exist so that a person’s colleagues would get to know if he was taking out data. His views are echoed by J Prasanna of K7 computing, who says system administration

 and cyber security responsibilities should never be concentrated in one person. Banning cellphones, or USB devices, or keeping computers ensure security, he adds. Monitoring use is a better option.

The next article I came across was when an external BPO shut shop in India abruptly and did not pay its employees.  Its bad – very bad.  Was just wondering how the ‘losing jobs’ due to Globalisation could very well affect us as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the BPOs’ shifted to lower cost centers like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Phillipines, Vietnam etc. in future due to higher costs of operation in India.  Labour in India is definitely getting more expensive and operation margins are coming down.  We have crossed that thin line of profitibility in many areas already.   Read on.  Again don’t end with this article as there is lot more to come!!!:

British telecom firm Belair Communications has shut down its captive call centre in Bangalore and terminated the services of its 93 employees without compensating them.

According to the Union for ITES (IT-enabled services) professionals (UNITES), Belair Communications India Ltd suddenly decided to cease its India operations last month by handing over the pink slips to its entire staff without notice.

“The company neither paid salaries for May nor compensated the employees with termination benefits,” the UNITES, a body for workers in the new economy sector, said on Saturday in a statement.

The Indian subsidiary of the British firm was registered with the state-owned Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) as an export unit and began its operations a year ago to provide transaction processing and call centre services to its customers back home.

The company, however, did not offer any reason for shutting shop abruptly.

“We have lodged a complaint with the Karnataka labour commissioner and requested the authorities to initiate action against the Belair under the Industrial Dispute Act 1947,” the union said.

UNITES India general secretary R Karthik Shekhar told reporters though Nasscom, the software body, was informed about the closure and sought its intervention to protect the interests of the employees, no action was taken against the firm.

It may be recalled British energy firm Powergen relocated about 1,000 jobs last month from India in a bid to achieve economies of scale by cost cutting.

Similarly, the US-based Apple Computer shut its 20-member captive call centre in June. Another US data infrastructure product vendor – Pervasive Software too followed suit, citing high cost of operations in Bangalore.

Both the firms decided to outsource their work to third party Indian vendors.

STPI Bangalore director BV Naidu said a detailed inquiry would be conducted soon to ascertain the reasons for Belair to discontinue its India operations.

Okay now on to the next topic.  Within my organisation – I’ve been individually interviewing all my team members for feedback on myself, feedback on work, team etc. and if they would want me to take care of anything before leaving.   Can certainly see some of them wanting to leave.  One is an explicit case who is also helping me (and getting my help) in trying in some other companies.  Just a matter of time.  I don’t see a mass exodus from here – but a small scale one might be in the offing.  Surprise surprise is that the resource who is supposed to replace me (just 4 months into the organisation) has also put in his papers.  Apparently he is going to Singapore via Covansys for their Citibank project.   My PM – is mad about it.  Serves them right.  But beyond all this – Cognizant as an organisation is extremely well equipped to tide over these things.  One SA goes – another comes in.  They’ve got excellent brand value outside and their policy of hiring freshers by the ton – is paying off well.  Freshers can be expected to stay back for alteast 2 years before they considering leaving.  Also now they’re even recruiting BSc. grads and they certainly will stick on for atleast 3 years while accepting much lower pays.  I hear BSc. grads are being paid 7 thousand per month which is nowhere near to what BE grads earn.  Its like things haven’t changed since my days for BSc. grads.  Even I was being paid that in 98 when I joined the industry as a BSc. grad. 

Okay now onto the next topic.  I’m going to Gopi’s wedding in August.  Been booking tickets to Rajmundry.  Hope to see Chandra, Clement, Hemanth (and Brinda – the fellow didn’t bother to send her photo at all!!!!) and Gopi with Swarna (Gopi is no better than Hemanth – he too didn’t send her photo).  Looking forward to it a lot.  The last time all of us met together was around 5 years back when we had been to Chandra’s house in Jalahalli East in some woods around there.  How things have changed since then.  Clement is a full fledged father, Chandra is a father as well Image ( a different kind of father though!!!), I am gonna be a father, Hemanth and Gopi are on the verge of losing their virginty.   So readers are invited to wish us all a very good and eventful meeting. 

Don’t have any pictures to post of late.  So swalpa adjust maadi kolli!!!

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