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India’s defence data could be an open secret. Ask the NTRO bosses who lost their laptops.


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1
Sep 13, 2010
Ctrl+Alt, Disappeared

Apropos of your cover story (By the Way, I Dropped It, Aug 30), there is no evidence to suggest that people like Sistala, Dixit or Bedi are spies or are linked to any of India’s enemies, so let us give them the benefit of doubt. But it cannot be denied that they were careless to the extreme. Why can’t all our sensitive posts in organisations like DRDO and NTRO be manned solely by military personnel, not by bureaucrats and civilians? A former soldier or military officer will be much more disciplined and much less likely to leave sensitive laptops lying around. Military training instils certain qualities like alertness, discipline and quick thinking that indolent civilians simply cannot possess.

G. Natrajan, Hyderabad

What difference will this make? The Americans already know all that’s happening in our defence establishments, as our government has handed over our entire defence, foreign and economic policies to them on a platter. While I was working for the air force as a civilian in 2004, an American air force delegation was visiting the Eastern Air Command headquarters here in Shillong. These men and women, some of them only sergeants or warrant officers, were allowed unfettered access to areas that were sealed off to iaf personnel, even officers, who did not have special clearance. They were even allowed to photograph what they wanted. Since the Indian government has further surrendered all vestiges of sovereignty in the last six years, I wonder just how much more the Americans need to know. One of them might just as well sit in the defence minister’s office monitoring his correspondence and reading his files!

Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

I’m not sure what Outlook expects to be done. If you lose data like this, the smart thing to do is not to recover it, but to disable such data. There is no point in recovering the laptop, you wouldn’t know who has seen it already.

N. Santhanam, Bangalore

Many laptops at the Pentagon and MI5 have gone missing. The situation is not particularly unique to India.

Suresh Kamath, Edison

With this level of incompetence, it is only a miracle that is holding our Republic together.

Varun Garde, Bangalore

And the ruling elites of the country say the Maoists are our gravest internal security threat!

Rajesh, Phoenix, US

Lost laptops? More likely they were handed over to a handler in India/overseas or forced to hand it over because these men were ensnared in a honey trap and blackmailed.

Prakash Kumar, New Delhi

This is one of the best examples highlighting the need for the mai-baap culture to survive in this country. In civil life, while even a scavenger may have a godfather to protect his interests, in the armed forces, you are on your own. So, youngsters! Do you have it in you to work like a bonded labour during the best years of your life and be treated like so much filth for the rest of your lives? So that the thugs and scoundrels, for whom you practically sacrifice your lives, can continue to loot this country and its people and live their wayward lives in posh offices/houses at the taxpayer’s cost?

Maj P.M. Ravindran (Retd), Palakkad

Of all the incidents you mention, the one about 53 computers being stolen in a single night from two DRDO labs sounds the most fishy, and suggests inside collusion. Maybe it was a joint US-Pak operation. After all, they both need to know the same things.

M.K. Saini, New Delhi

One reason our top officials, scientists etc lost their laptops is because they are used to others (usually their lower-ranked subordinates) carrying their stuff.

Subash, New Delhi

Is there anything at all that is still safe for the common man?

Dinesh Kumar, Chandigarh

The ISI and CIA no longer need to man our flank: we are scoring self-goals to their credit.

Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi

Clarification: It was inadvertently mentioned that K.V.S.S. Prasad Rao served as an OSD to Dr R. Chidambaram. It was Vijay Raghavan, advisor, NTRO, who was OSD to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and was posted to NTRO on a post higher than his entitlement. We regret the error.

2
Sep 20, 2010
A Lost Cause

I was struck dumb by the news of the laptops and secret data “lost” from the custody of responsible defence officials (By the Way, I Dropped it, Aug 29). If we were in a country like China or Russia, the culprits would have been hanged by now.

V.G. Chopade, Kolhapur
Order by HAVE YOUR SAY
1/D-77
Aug 21, 2010
01:26 PM
ISI & CIA no longer need to man our flank because we are scoring self-goals to their credit.
Rajneesh Batra
New Delhi, India
2/D-85
Aug 21, 2010
02:58 PM
There is no evidence that people like Sistala, Dixit and Bedi are spies or are linked to any of India's enemies, so let us give them the benefit of doubt. But it cannot bedenied that they were careless to the extreme. Why can't all our sensitive posts in organizations like DRDO and NTRO be manned solely by military personnel? Why are bureaucrats and civilians manning these posts? Not to say that all our bureaucrats are not patriotic enough, but a former soldier or military officer will be much more disciplined and much less likely to leave sensitive laptops lying around. Military training endows certain qualities like alertness, discipline and quick thinking that indolent civilians simply cannot possess.
G.Natrajan
Hyderabad, India
3/D-86
Aug 21, 2010
03:07 PM
If asked for, MOST bureaucrats, and ALL politicians, will gladly sell their hearts, minds and their fathers to anyone, for money.

Why does the media go after a few careless officials, who are probably unmotivated in their sensitive jobs, thanks to their corrupt political bosses? Who cares for the nation, anyway?
Male unblocked
Chennai, India
4/D-94
Aug 21, 2010
03:19 PM
"In Oct ’03, 53 computers were stolen one night from two DRDO labs—the Systems Analysis Group and the Institute for Systems Analysis and Studies—in Metcalfe House in Delhi. The computer carcasses were found later, but the hard disks had been removed. They contained secret encryption codes and communications of the army, navy, air force and all central police organisations. "

of all the incidents this looks the most fishy, and suggests inside collusion. Maybe it was a joint US - Paki operation. After all they both need to know the same things.
MK Saini
Delhi, India
5/D-103
Aug 21, 2010
05:33 PM
Is it not surprising that NTRO officials are travelling inside or outside the country with raw data loaded in their laptops. There must be something seriously wrong in their system so that an official howsoever high can just downlod data from the system & carry it around in their laptops. A network with basic security firewalls in place simply would not permit that. If it is true that 53 computers were denuded of their hard discs, that must have compromised national security to unheard of extent . How one do it in the heart of Delhi? The scientific bureaucracy of DRDO is notoriously sloth & very low on productivity; but this is too much even by their own standards. That the issues was hushed up points to more than what meets the eye.
MANISH BANERJEE
KOLKATA, India
6/D-122
Aug 21, 2010
08:47 PM
One of reason for losing laptops etc is that our top officials, scientists etc are used to others (usually their low ranked subordinates)to carry their stuff for them, even if it may be a briefcase. Thus they get into the habit of someone else carrying their personal belongings which leads to forgetting things like laptops etc.
Subash
New Delhi, India
7/D-7
Aug 22, 2010
01:37 AM
>> "It’s also ironical that while many other officials have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) on flimsy and concocted cases (see following story), Sistala and Dixit have escaped, despite being in clear violation of the OSA."

It is more than ironical. It is downright complicity.
Anwaar
Dallas, United States
8/D-16
Aug 22, 2010
02:42 AM
If such is the incompetence, it is only a miracle that our republic is holding together. This almost restores my faith in God.
Varun Garde
Bengaluru, India
9/D-33
Aug 22, 2010
08:17 AM
I am not sure what Outlook expects to be done in this scenario.

If you lose data like what has been mentioned, the smart thing to do is not to recover it, but to either make the data useless---or better yet, a trap, if possible. Recovering the laptops is a fool's task---you never know who has seen the data.

Sometimes, accidents happen. If it is clear that the personnel involved were not acting in malice, perhaps it doesn't make sense to imprison them for 14 years. Last I checked, we are not living in the Mughal empire or Saudi Arabia.
Narayana Santhanam
Bangalore, India
10/D-39
Aug 22, 2010
09:37 AM
>Last I checked, we are not living in the Mughal empire or Saudi Arabia.

Open your morning papar , you will find that you are living in republic of Big Banana. If you can fiddle the right kind of influence , you get away with murder. Accidents just don't happen. There is negligence & motives behind such accidents.

Have you heard anybody loosing his laptop? You loose your mobile, you loose your car keys, you lose your purse , you leave behind your cards at the ATM or at the shop. But if you think hard it's next to impossible to loose your laptop.

In the instant case - if true- a series of wilful actions resulted in loss of the computer. First security breach is when you are allowed to take your laptop or a storage device or even your mobile phone to your work-sation which should normally be in a high security zone in such an eshtablishment. Try doing that in an average company with it's own network! Then you download data using approprate security procedure. Transfer the same to any storage device or directly to your personal laptop via an appropraiate software. Waltz out with the machine or the storage device. If it's a storage device you up-load the the data to your laptop. And you or the carrier conveniently loose the whole machine. Too much of an accident? A series of accidents?
MANISH BANERJEE
KOLKATA, India
11/D-81
Aug 22, 2010
10:24 PM
How is this significant? The Americans already know everything that's happening in our defence establishments, and that because our government has handed over our entire defence, foreign and economic policies to them on a platter.

Let me tell you of something that happened in 2004, while I was working for the Air Force as a civilian. An American air force delegation was visiting the Eastern Air Command headquarters here in Shillong, and these men and women, some of them only sergeants or warrant officers, were allowed free access to areas that were sealed off to Indian Air Force personnel, even officers, who did not have special clearance. And they were allowed to photograph what they wanted.

Since the Indian government has further surrendered all vestiges of sovereignty in the last six years, I wonder just how much more the Americans know now. Probably one of them sits in the Defence Minister's office monitoring his correspondence and reading his files!
Biswapriya Purkayastha
Shillong, India
12/D-22
Aug 23, 2010
05:27 AM
Incompetence would be the ultimate understatement.
It speaks volumes of the inept, bungling morons who run this cesspool of a land.
Want any more proof? 600 tons of high explosives has hone missing without a trace while being transported from a factory in Guj to MP - that's 61 truckloads over a four-month period- and no one noticed???
In any other nation worth its salt, after the first truckload failed to arrive at its destination by its ETA(estimated time of arrival) there would have been a full national alert sounded and frantic searches for the cargo.
But not in this cesspool run by corrupt bungling fools and idiots- apparently only after the 61st trip, by some fluke, some idiot somewhere finally noticed. Go figure.
Bodh
Springfield, United States
13/D-97
Aug 23, 2010
10:27 PM
Anyone with some knowledge of computer systems can tell you that an attempt to recover a lost laptap is useless because anyone who found it could have easily downloaded the data in to removable media.
So the best thing to do in such cases is to make the lost data a useless one as someone has already pointed out.

Another incident involving the lost hard disks was a serious one if any real data is kept in the PC's.
It is because the real data would be in big servers (big computers) from which you would be accessing the data through a firewall, which means through a security software which would not allow any authorized entry via network. Data can be stolen from the wires while it is being transmitted by hacking into data packets ,but that is generally possible only if your PC is also connected to the internet.
As far as I know, it is normal for Govt.of India, not to use PC's which are connected to internet for official records.

But all said and done,the security systems in India is not all that good.We are a country which is extremely disorganised (Swami Vivekananda said this long back) is beyond doubt. How we are still progressing is nothing short of miracle and we are a country run by Gods rather than stupid politicians totally involved in their wily games.


During Rajiv Gandhi's time, French intelligence wing spies purchased three clerks in PM's office, and entered ,hold your breath, PM's office on Sunday evening !!!
They could get all the files related to Defence ministry's purchase decisions perticularly about submarine deals and PM Rajiv Gandhi's notes,his remarks etc., very easily because clerks opened the steel almirahs containg typed and hand written files.

It may be a cruel joke but the realty was that French spies used PM's photcopy machine , and also the paper to take xerox copies of all files and walked out !!!

The RAW division found this out,probably on a tip off, and got all these involved arrested including French spies !
P.C.Alexnader (if I rember correctly) who was incharge of this section escaped unhurt and the clerks were sentenced to about 11 years in jail.

Where is the double layers of security for a PM's office ??
Just a few corrupt ,lazy,pawn chewing clerks could sell the files of GOVT.OF INDIA , and that too PM's office !!!
bowenpalle venuraja gopal rao.
warangal, india
14/D-4
Aug 24, 2010
12:43 AM
"DRDO scientist K.V.S.S. Prasad Rao. Rao had no previous experience in intelligence but he had served as the staff officer to Chidambaram for several years"

Absolute nonsense, KVSS PRSAD RAO never worked for Dr. Chidambaram and both are from two different scientific organizations with no overlap and served the country with distinction as leaders of their respective organizations. If the writer cannot check this simple fact before writing the article, how can we trust any material? This is perfect example of smearing public servants in the name of reporting.
narayana sthanam
Birmingham, United States
15/D-58
Aug 25, 2010
02:00 PM
Shocking! And these officers have been promoted? Where is the accountability?
gayathri e
chennai, India
16/D-3
Aug 26, 2010
12:48 AM
>>> Have you heard anybody loosing his laptop? You loose your mobile, you loose your car keys, you lose your purse , you leave behind your cards at the ATM or at the shop. But if you think hard it's next to impossible to loose your laptop.

IT is not impossible to loose lap top. Many laptops at pentagon and MI5 have gone missing.This situation is not unique to India.
Suresh Kamath
Edison, United States
17/D-34
Aug 27, 2010
09:26 AM
In past we have heard about ‘moles’ in Indian cabinet /government or PMO but those stories appearing in books authored either by politicians or overenthusiastic foreign journalists seemed less credible. However, when Outlook points fingers towards someone from PMO engaged in scuttling of any serious efforts at initiating a credible probe into the matter, it looks like we need no enemies across our borders to neutralise us should a situation of war arise.
R K Sudan
Jammu, India
18/D-112
Aug 27, 2010
11:40 PM
According to the ruling elites of the country, the biggest security threat is posed by the naxalites. Foremost task to the security apparatus is to take take care of the Dalits. Even here the brahmanical system is failing in spectacular way. All energy of the prosecutors is used to take care of Laloo, Mulayam and Mayawati, not the upper caste bureaucrats who betray the country.

Threat from outside is just a pretext to expand the bureaucracy.
Rajesh
Phoenix, United States
19/D-33
Aug 28, 2010
07:06 AM
Come on people. Lost laptops my stinking leaky arse!! More like handed over the laptop and other data to a handler in India/overseas or forced to hand it over because these wankers were ensnared in a honey trap and blackmailed.
Prakash Kumar
New Delhi, India
20/D-107
Sep 02, 2010
11:35 PM
By The Way, I dropped it.
I was struck dumb to know from Saikat Datta’s article reporting in detail the loss of laptop, 53 computers and secret data from the custody of responsible defence officials. And to crown it all the persons involved are scot-free. If such serious offences are not dealt with timely, one simply wonders whether the acts involved the higher-ups with ulterior motive. If such perilous acts are hushed up, the dooms’day would soon dawn for the country.
If it were in a country like China or Russia, the culprits would have been hanged without much of an ado. Kudos to your magazine for boldly publishing the details even with the names of the persons involved! I do not think, this has appeared in any other media; at least I haven’t seen one. Keep it up.
V. G. Chopade
Kolhapur Maharashtra,
maheshvc@in.com
Mahesh V Chopade
Kolhapur, India
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