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Cyber Crime in Ahmedabad India

Corporate Espionage Rampant in City BPOs

New Modus Operandi Stumps Owners, Investigators
Parth Shastri | TNN

Link to article in Times of India

Ahmedabad: Bob Massa, CEO of SearchKing, a US-based MNC dealing in web marketing, was distraught last month when he got to know that majority of his clients had stopped coming to him.

When he failed to understand the reason, he investigated and found that some employees of his company in Ahmedabad had cleverly diverted the customer traffic with a simple change of code in the company’s website. All customers were told that the company had changed its email address. This was enough to divert all business to the employees who had started a firm of their own on the sly.

A complaint was filed against , chief operations officer, Amish Vyas, vice-president and Nisha Singhal, web designer, by Chirag Budhbhatti, managing director of Indian operations with Vastrapur police station officials. The trio, which is absconding at the moment, has not been granted bail by the court in the case so far.

According to the city police officials, it is not the first case where the sensitive information processed by several city-based BPOs were stolen and sold by city-based techies. However, in this case, it was a direct theft or transfer of the database. Here, the email itself was diverted to new company where Dodeja introduced himself as CEO.

Interestingly, the dimensions of the game have changed. Sunny Vaghela, a city-based cyber crime expert, told TOI that in the case of SearchKing, the accused had fiddled with the code of the website.

“The code allowed them to get the emails to their own account without the parent company knowing about it. We have seen more than 20 cases of data theft in the last two years where in most of the cases, the confidante turned perpetrators. BPOs have, however, now introduced stringent parameters for employees who deal with data,” he said.

The accused in the case are still at large and the process of transfer of mails to the trio’s company SEO Catalyst is still going on.

The trio was sacked in October this year for their activities but by that time, they had already got database required and access to the website. Investigators have not yet found Dodeja’s laptop containing the crucial data.

When data theft ran into . 1.3 crore

Ahmedabad: In an incident that took place in 2008 in the city, a large-scale data theft, estimated to be around Rs 1.3 crore, was reported where Maulik Dave, who got a contract to design and maintain a company Noble Ventures Inc, based in Florida, sold database of 1.25 US citizens to rival companies. Due to this, his contract with the firm was terminated. In 2009, three employees of a prominent business process outsourcing centre were sacked after it was revealed that they had transferred a major chunk of database in their personal account and were dealing with clients directly.

Database, the new currency for BPOs

Ahmedabad: A senior city police official told TOI that the database is a new currency for BPOs. “They handle huge databases of corporate, citizens and hold private records. It can’t be measured just in monetary terms. However, the database containing your and my data is available for Rs 4 to 5 a piece that marketing companies use to bombard us with offers and schemes. In foreign market, the list of clientele becomes very important. In cases such as SearchKing, it means loss running in lakhs and crores over a period of time. However, the fraudsters have time and again changed their modus operandi to get the access without being obvious,” he said.

‘Ignorance about cyber crimes costing biz dear’


Ahmedabad: He is considered to be one of the oldest hands at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) business world over. Bob Massa, CEO of SearchKing, chose Ahmedabad over Pune, Hyderabad or Bengaluru to run his Indian operations and was happy exploring the ever-developing Gujarat and Indian market till the data theft and espionage halted his march.

“It came as a shock to me. I had told my senior staffers that whenever they wanted to start out their own venture, I would support them. I had suspected something fishy during months preceding October but did not know the gravity of the problem. However, I have retained my trust in employees and we are starting afresh soon,” he said.

Massa added that he had started contacting his clients who told him about the diverted emails after which he took the steps to prevent the damage already done by the trio. The accused even travelled to USA to attend seminars where they suspectedly made contacts with some of the prospect customers. He said that forensic investigation of the accused's laptop can give the idea about the exact amount of damage done to the company. However, he added that he has taken it as a lesson to go ahead.

What he is sad about is an opportunity lost. “I chose Gujarat due to its vibrancy and economy, but am a bit disappointed by ignorance of cyber crime in law enforcement agencies. I had to run from pillar to post just to lodge the complaint in the incident. The specialised cell did not help us either. If the state targets to get more such companies from abroad, it should work on the framework to prevent such incidents with strong law enforcement,” he said.

On the ending note, Massa said that Ahmedabad is like his second home. “I am happy to be part of the growth story and has not lost my faith. I have lost money and am still losing it but the accused have not harmed me as much as they have to the developing BPO industry in the sate,” he said.

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