Beware of your Bank Account Information theft
By Maxwell Pereira

Politicians and bureaucrats in India are required as per rules in the normal course to declare their assets to the government. No one has however thought of monitoring their bank accounts. I am not sure whether perhaps this has something to do with an individual's privacy rights. But while investigating cases of disproportionate assets it is not uncommon for CBI to come across a plethora of multiple accounts being operated by the officer/individual under investigation in a cross-section of different banks, in own name, in the name of wife, children or other family members, or benami - in an effort to distribute, hide or confuse the ready availability of details or knowledge concerning fortunes amassed.

In this context a recent unexpected development in England may interest the mandarins in our finance and home ministries and the vigilance conscience keepers elsewhere, to alert them to possibilities here - for both checks and balances on one hand, and threats of blackmail or identity cloning/ false identities on the other.

The website has an interesting article on how a burglar last week has stolen bank account details of more than 15,000 Scotland
Yard officers following a huge security blunder.

Sensitive financial information about high-ranking officers - said to include Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, and anti-terrorist detectives that were stored on three laptops stolen from the company responsible for the force's pay and pensions services, is feared to have fallen into the hands of the burglars. A major security review was then ordered at Britain's biggest force amid fears the thief could steal vast sums of money from officers' accounts. It is also feared the computer files - which includes National Insurance numbers - could be used by criminal gangs to create false identities.

The break-in, at the offices of software group LogicaCMG in Peckham, South-East London, is a huge embarrassment to Scotland Yard. Horrified over the fact
that the company did not have better security, senior Yard officers are said to be clamouring for heads to roll over this, saying it is absolutely scandalous that a thief can steal such sensitive information at a time of unprecedented concerns over security. The security implications of this are feared to be terrifying, as the potential for identity cloning is vast.

Detectives in the meantime are trying to establish whether the thief had deliberately targeted the offices in Southwark Street, Peckham, which are thought to have been fitted with state-of-the-art security because of the company's sensitive work for the Metropolitan Police. They are trying to establish whether it was working properly when the thief - or thieves - broke in.

The police chief is said to be 'furious' about the security breach and has demanded a report on the circumstances of the burglary. Payroll details of at least half of the Met's 30,000 police officers were on the stolen laptops. It is thought that sensitive information about several thousand civilian staff were also on the computers, which have not been recovered.

LogicaCMG and its pension administrator partner Paymaster have a 31million seven-year contract awarded last year to provide a payroll and pensions administration service for the Metropolitan Police's 46,000 officers and civilian staff. A risk assessment done following the burglary in respect of the data on the laptops has concluded that the risk of staff members falling victim to either
fraudulent activity or identity theft is minimal, as the laptops did not contain home addresses or telephone numbers of staff, and there was no suggestion that terrorists were responsible for the raid. LogicaCMG has of course offered the commissioner an unreserved apology. A spokesperson of the company has assured that immediate action has been taken to mitigate any further risk arising
from this incident and are cooperating fully with the Metropolitan Police investigation.

Coming closer home, people in India are strangely less security conscious, and less alive to the harmful possibilities or repercussions following thefts of personal account information. In the context of recent reports of phising attacks on many local banks and their clients and constituents - including the UTI bank which handles the payrolls of a 60,000 plus force accounts of Delhi Police, it would not be out of place for those concerned - the bank authorities and the police management, to spare a moment to the vital security aspects involved.

In the guise of protecting the constituent's interest, conmen are busy with their 'phising' attacks emailing ostensibly from the bank's own banner asking clients to confirm their "Account Details To Avoid Service Suspension", or announcing the "New Security Upgrade" etc for a better and secure banking service against any fraudulent activities. With this façade the account holder is conned into parting/ providing his account information - asking him also to include his Transaction Id & password by following the given reference. The reference* provided to UTI Customers is which the Delhi Police cyber cell would do well to investigate.

28.11.2006: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017 Tel: 0124-4111026 & 2360568; website: http://www.; email:


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