Friday, December 30, 2005

Guns & mettle: Terror runs into infotech wall

Guns & mettle: Terror runs into infotech wall
The Economic Times

BANGALORE’S IT hotspots may have come under terror shadow, yet they are virtual fortresses difficult to breach. When Lashkere-Taiba operatives recced the city’s IT campuses almost a year ago, they found their security set-ups impregnable.

This assessment comes even as Karnataka Chief Minister N Dharam Singh described the attack in the IISc campus as an act of terrorism. Investigations were on to identify the perpetrators, he said, adding, no group had claimed responsibility yet. Intelligence inputs gathered last March reveal LeT operatives had reconnoitred several of the city’s software campuses in late 2004 to gauge security loopholes and exploit breaches.

However, the outfit had to abort immediate plans of an attack after figuring out that privately-run security mechanisms in place at most campuses were extremely sound and “invulnerable to terror attacks”. Infosys, for one, has armed guards at its gates and visitor parking lots are located away from its buildings to limit damage to property and staff in the event an attack. Employees are also frisked at entry points.

Wipro and Hewlett-Packard have electronic systems to scan retina and identify fingerprints. Pramod Bhasin of Genpact, the country’s largest BPO said, “While this seems like a one-off kind of an incident, we have carried out a thorough review of our security measures, today. As a part of GE, we always had very robust security for all our centres and are putting this new threat into perspective now. We are asking employees to be a bit more careful than usual after this incident.”

The chief minister said security would be tightened for the IT/BT companies and other vital institutions. Police protection would be increased for all national and international conferences to be held in the city. Wednesday’s attack has raised concerns across the country’s tech community.

Change of tactic

Attacking an academic institution considered a centre for technology innovation and that too a gathering of academicians and technology professionals is seen as a change tactics and cause for “serious concern” by the community. While most tech companies refused to be drawn into a debate, at least two leading MNCs said their principals abroad were a little anxious.

Infosys Chairman N R Narayanamurthy was, however, categorical that he did not anticipate any impact on the city’s tech business. Security agencies stumbled upon the Bangalore terror plan while interrogating LeT operatives following the busting of a module by Delhi Police earlier this year. It turned out that the LeT terrorists had planned to strike at the country’s economic establishment by targeting Bangalore’s software firms.

The Centre assessed that the state police was capable of providing additional security cover to the IT firms, a Home Ministry official told ET. Even after yesterday’s attack on IISc, officials say, “it’s up to the IT firms to hire the CISF for consultation on security upgrades.”Bangalore not only houses India’s top software firms, Infosys and Wipro, but facilities of foreign giants IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments and Accenture. The $22-billion industry contributes 3.5% of India’s GDP. Bangalore is home to nearly 1,500 tech companies and some 200,000 of their employees; it accounts for 40% of India’s IT revenues.


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