Fraudsters had free access to passwords | News from Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram: Data entry operators who were arrested for building number fraud in the municipal corporation had free access to civil servants’ ID numbers and passwords. One of them had accessed a tax official’s identification number over a year ago, kept it with her, and used it to verify the details of the creation of false numbers for building. They chose that specific official’s identification number for the fraud, knowing that the official’s transfer to another civic body was imminent and would avert any kind of suspicion. The data entry clerk had previously worked in the same position where the revenue staff whose password was used had also been employed for some time.
The fact that the passwords issued by Information Kerala Mission (IKM) were mostly the same for almost all officials and provided the perfect breeding ground for fraud. It was as simple as remembering the first four letters of the alphabet combined with the first three numbers on the number board. The identification numbers were also easily accessible to the data entry operator. Passwords were rarely changed except by some staff members who kept updating them. IKM also made no effort to modify the system by creating a mandatory field to update passwords within a specific time frame.
One of those arrested was even unemployed for several months. Yet when the need arose to create fake numbers for a building, she could do it easily, entering all the details remotely using her mobile phone. Knowing that it was common practice in municipal corporations to clear files pending for digital signature in bulk, data entry operators completed the first two steps; entry of basic building data and verification of the file in one day, then transmitted to the bank of waiting files for digital signature. The next day this file was given a number after being digitally signed along with other files as well. The investigative team must now determine whether the personnel who carried out the final customs clearance colluded with the arrestees.
Meanwhile, the police team investigating the fraud have filed a production warrant and a custody application to take the four arrested people into custody for further questioning. Officials reiterate that while it was common for revenue staff to share passwords and ID numbers, officials cannot be absolved of responsibility for allowing fraud to occur.