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Whistleblower Act: Honest lives lost, protective law yet to see the light of day

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Prashant Pandey, the whistleblower who exposed the “Vyapam Scam” is scared for his life.

The tense situation Pandey finds himself in, is due to the removal of security cover accorded by the Delhi Police under the direction of the Delhi High Court.

According to a Delhi Police official, the reason for the withdrawal of Pandey’s security is that the petition had been disposed off and, in the final order, there was no mention of any security to be provided to him.

“There is no security from Delhi Police. The security personnel have been withdrawn. I fear for my security and for my family,” said Pandey while talking to PTI.

The digital forensics expert from Madhya Pradesh is known for uncovering the massive admission and recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh which involved businessmen, politicians and other renowned senior officials.

After the unearthing of the scam in 2013, the Medical Council of India and the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board were also served notices by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Following the astounding disclosure, the whistleblower had a miraculous escape from the jaws of death, when a truck hit his car on the Indore-Mhow earlier this month.

Pandey also claims that he was framed by a senior IPS officer for allegedly possessing Call Data Records(CDR) of many individuals, following which he was arrested by the Bhopal Police in August last year.

Moreover, the state government filed a report in the Delhi High Court saying that Pandey holds a criminal background.

Such a desperate reaction by the state government comes after the Madhya Pradesh High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team(SIT), while being supervised by the state’s Special Task Force, discovered the role of senior state government officials and politicians in the scam.

Such a state-led backlash on exposers of truth is not an isolated case of the apathy with which the whistleblowers are treated in the country.

Earlier, in November 2003, Satyendra Dubey, a National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) engineer was murdered after he exposed corruption in the construction of highways.

According to the data compiled by Bloomberg, at least 12 whistleblowers have been killed since January 2010. More than 40 people have been assaulted for seeking information.

Niyamat Ansari, a Jharkhand resident who registered complaints against the winning bidders of the public-works contract under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, was dragged from his house and beaten to death.

In spite of such overwhelming cases of gruesome crimes committed against whistleblowers, little action has been undertaken by the government to protect the rights of whistleblowers.

The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, a law meant to empower and protect people who report corruption, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 but is still awaiting amendments in the Rajya Sabha.

As per activists, even if the law is passed, it is virtually toothless.

The law does not provide any protection to whistleblowers who disclose information under the Officials Secrets Act, a law which covers documents classified by the government, including defense deals.

Moreover, information termed as “unwarranted invasion of privacy”, will also not be covered under the act.

“The government is going back on its basic moral obligation of protecting whistleblowers,” said Anjali Bharadwaj of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information to NDTV.

Foreign countries hold a lesson for India in this regard. Strong anti-corruption laws such as the UK Bribery Act and US Corrupt Practices Act curtail the hedonist behaviour to an extent.

In the United Kingdom, The Public Interest Disclosure Act has given significant protection to the whistleblower from the employer.

The United States provides protection from retaliation in cases where whistleblowing is related to a specific topic protected by statute.

India on the other hand, is still struggling hard to put a worthwhile whistleblower protection legislation on the table.

How many more honest lives can India afford to lose, before it wakes up from its slumber?

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Copyright 2015 NewsGram

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Delhi Police And Microsoft Work Together To Catch Cyber Thugs

Microsoft, that invests more than a billion dollars a year in security research, innovation and development, reached out to 126 organisations in India last year.

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Microsoft
A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. Microsoft says it’s requiring its U.S. suppliers to offer their employees at least 12 weeks paid leave to care for a new child. The company announced the new parental leave policy Thursday. VOA

In a significant operation earlier this month, the cyber cell of Delhi Police arrested 24 people who posed as Microsoft tech support staff and duped several US citizens.

This could not have been possible without the the real-time monitoring of cyber crimes by Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit (DCU) in Redmond that is using Cloud, Big Data, Machine Learning (ML) and Business Intelligence (BI) to improve the security of its products and services, protect vulnerable populations, fight malware, and reduce digital risks.

The real-time data analytics and sharing of key inputs with relevant law enforcement agencies helped bust 10 companies that were illegally running call centres at various places in Delhi that targeted Microsoft Windows users.

 

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A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge. VOA

 

“It was real-time monitoring that helped us crack the Delhi gang behind the large-scale tech support fraud. The whole operation has been encouraging in our fight against cyber crimes,” Shilpa Bratt, Director (Shared Services) of Digital Crimes Unit, told IANS.

“We worked closely with our DCU staff in India and Singapore to nail the culprits. I believe there are more such cyber criminals out there and we will up the ante against their sinister plans,” Bratt added.

The cyber criminals impersonated as Microsoft tech support staff after they managed to fraudulently pop up messages on users’ screens that their systems had been affected by malware.

In order to fix the systems, they charged any sum between $100 and $500 from the victims.

According to the Delhi police, incriminating evidence in the form of cheques from customers in the name of Microsoft Tech support, call recordings, virtual dialers, Microsoft Tech support training material, call log transcripts detailing the conversation with victims of fraud, payment gateway records and servers were seized.

 

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Delhi Police (representational Image), VOA

 

According to a Microsoft survey released this month, 68 per cent users in India experienced tech support scams in the past year and some of them (14 per cent) even lost money.

The problem is not limited to India alsone. Tech support scams are a problem worldwide, with three out of five people globally having experienced one in the past year and one in five losing money to fraudsters, according to the “Tech Support Scam Survey 2018” released by DCU.

In 2014, the DCU filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in the central district of California against some companies and related entities in India for unfair and deceptive business practices and trademark infringement.

According to the lawsuit, 3.3 million Americans fall victim to technical support scams annually, losing $1.5 billion.

The scammers claim to find non-existent computer viruses and infections, and then con people out of their hard-earned money for bogus tech support, in addition to stealing personal and financial information or even installing new malicious software.

Microsoft
Tech support scams are a problem worldwide, with three out of five people globally having experienced one in the past year.

“At DCU, we are constantly monitoring such scammers. The fight against them will only intensify in days to come,” Bratt noted.

In the last two days, informed Bratt, over 2 billion connected devices were affected with active threats globally and India was at the second spot after Vietnam in the top affected countries.

The data was generated by Microsoft’s real-time “Threat Monitor”.

The DCU – with 22 employees at its Redmond headquarters and 60 overall at 30 offices globally including in India — is working round-the-clock to intercept, analyse and mitigate threats, thus creating a road-map for various industry stakeholders globally to plan relevant actions.

In total, a team of 3,500 professionals at Microsoft is looking at security, built into the company’s products and services, using frameworks such as the security development lifecycle and operational security assurance.

Also Read: Google Launches New Cyber Security Unit For Play Store

Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Engagement Centre in New Delhi is already empowering organisations with information and techniques to secure critical information infrastructure and help reduce malware and digital risk.

Microsoft, that invests more than a billion dollars a year in security research, innovation and development, reached out to 126 organisations in India last year.

“Our big worry is attacks from nation-state actors as law enforcement is challenged by borders. The cross-border nature of cyber crime has created safe havens for bad actors. We need a stronger global security law to deal with such situations which are increasing by the day,” Bratt emphasised.  (IANS)