Forensic Activism —
The Need of the Hour for Rural India By Dr. M. S. Rao Director- cum- Chief Forensic Scientist
DFS, MHA, GOI
Forensic investigation is not new to our society. But coining of the word “forensics ”is of recent origin. The forensic field was in a primitive state of development during fifties of last century. Slowly during later part of the century, with the introduction of hi -tech crimes into the society, forensic identification process got accelerated & strengthened through modern instrumentation & automation.
The forensic applications are not limited to criminal laws only, they cover civil laws, consumers protection, product reliability, medical integrity, environmental protection, national security etc.
Police and judiciary are now fully aware about forensic importance in any sort of crime scene management. But the urban public are now slowly geared to know more about forensics, thanks to TV channels. But the rural & tribal population are yet to be educated about the forensic importance of crime scene management. Taking advantage of the above situation in rural India, it is now feared that the crime base is shifting from urban areas to rural & tribal areas. These are now going to be the breeding grounds for all sorts of criminal & terrorist activities. Forensic planning has to be formulated for rural & tribal population before the crime takes deep root in these areas which are supposed to be fertile for anti social elements at present. Poor village folk is now a prey to crimes like counterfeit currency, adulterated food/water, fake bank accounts/insurance policies, pension accounts, terrorism, abduction, flesh trade, smuggling of narcotics etc.
Govt takes responsibility to provide the bare necessities of life in a mission mode so that in a given span of time, the goal can be achieved. We have a number of millennium missions for rural India like mission on food, shelter, health,
education, water, transport etc. But there is nothing in a mission mode to curb the ill effects of criminal activities even though all, in some way or other, are affected by criminals. It is seen that crime is the major factor which stands as a barrier against achieving our mission goals. Crime, of course , is no more localized, it is organized and globalised. Local laws also face a challenge from the present day crimes. They need reformation against hi - tech crimes. Forensics which is combination of science & law, can be one of the means to go for a crimeless society.
The present day society not only faces normal crimes but they also face challenges from terrorism. Terrorism may not be new phenomenon but nobody had given a serious thought as to how to effectively nip the threats in the bud. Forensic potentials must be harnessed to detect & nullify their plans. Traditional methods have proved to be a failure to handle them. The latest trend is towards preventive forensics. Forensics is now no more viewed as a tool for post incident analysis. It now helps the society as a preventive forensic tool. It is used as a pre-incident analyzing tool to detect & prevent crime before it takes place. This demands the forensic facilities to be brought to the door steps of common man.
The increased role of forensic technology now aims for quick & quality results through validated tools. Any error or late submission will help the criminal or terrorist in achieving his goal and the credibility of the forensic community will be at stake.
Now a days forensic intelligence gathering techniques are major tools in countering any sort of crime. Forensic data is a key tool for intelligence evaluation. Now terrorists are targeting e- commerce & e- Governance. The automation has not only made our life comfortable but a kick at times from cyber terrorists makes life a hell. The society cannot role back on e- commerce and e-governance but their smooth & safe functioning now depends on forensic capabilities. Similarly e-banking is also facing challenges from e- criminals. A number of established firms have collapsed due to this criminal activity. Individuals are not exceptions to this sort of crime. Daily thousands of innocent persons are turning victims of these e-banking offences. Rural population should be aware of “dos and don ’ts ”on e-banking. The present day hi - tech printing technology has made it possible to bring out fake currency, security papers, passport, visa, appointment letters, mark sheet,
certificates etc. It is very difficult even for an educated person to identify the present day fake/forged documents, leave aside the innocent village folk. Rural folk have to be educated on this front also.
Preventive forensics and forensic intelligence gathering tools are going to play a major role in redefining safety & security standards not only in e- governance but also in civil aviation, internet surveillance, critical infrastructure protection etc. Time is now ripe for law enforcement managers to insist with the State & central Govt. to fully support the rural & tribal forensic demands and needs. Public & judiciary now demand for forensic activism because the present day hi -tech crimes can only be tackled through forensics. Forensic activism among rural /tribal population will definitely act as a deterrent factor for further commission of crime. The present day rural & tribal population even don ’t know what forensic demands stand for. They are to be first educated on crime scene protection & its management & on forensic nursing to take forensic care of the victims of rape, murders, bride burning etc. They have no idea - why they are to protect the crime scene, how to protect, what to protect, whom to call, what to collect & to whom to refer. Similarly in cases of murders/suicides, the rural tribals have no education to handle the situation from forensic point of view. They even don ’t know what forensic clues are and how they can be preserved till forensic experts take charge of the situation. Thus rural awakening on forensic activism is the solution for better crime scene management.
These things can easily be tackled in two ways.
1. Practically all rural/tribal areas are now having video display units. Forensic teaching material particularly on crime scene protection & management can be supplied for regular video display. Even frequently asked question/answer sessions on forensics can also be arranged to make the learning more interesting & effective.
2. The locally available Home Guards and self help- groups can be trained on forensic nursing to forensically handle the victims of different types of crimes. Here NGOs can also play a vital role if they are made aware of the forensic education on crime scene management.
A number of rural/tribal development/investment schemes are in operation. Sufficient funds are made available by State Govt, Central Govt., & even by international agencies for development of rural/tribal India. Even after five decades of independence we have not been able to provide them with the basic urban amenities like clean drinking water, home for homeless, proper roads, schooling facilities and many more. Forensic auditing can play a vital role for proper utilization of funds right from the start till end i.e., policy formulation,
programming and evaluation and impact assessment studies. Forensic auditing is the targeting application of detailed audit procedures to identify if there is any illegal, unauthorized or un -procedural use of funds and assets and also to establish the identity of those responsible. It also evaluates the condition of internal controls and accounting and separate review of the potential for and existence of fradulant or illegal acts. Forensic auditing reports will provide valuable inputs to the govt. for redressing the existing programmes and reflect the flaws in the implementation of such developmental schemes. To make the best use of the developmental funds under different schemes, the introduction of forensic auditing will definitely be welcome by one & all. This will also bring real value to such rural/tribal
developmental activities. It will prove to be cross cutting instrument in bringing transparency in all the schemes which are to be implemented for development of rural India. Forensic auditing can keep an eye on the proper utilization of funds at the grass root level and enable the rural poor to improve the quality of their lives. Challenges from Emerging crimes and latest forensic trends It is now observed that terrorist and IT related crimes are the latest trends in crime scenario.
The modus operandi of the terrorist activities are ever changing but the scientific community has to anticipate them and devise appropriate technological strategies to detect them, negate their efforts or reduce the attrition drastically. The forensics will have to find effective field channels to nip the horror of terrorists activities in the bud itself. Thus the burden of present day forensics is to tune its efforts for success in pre-incident detection and even prevention.
Now- a - days suicide attacks by terrorist outfits demand innovative planning and rethinking on forensic research. Efforts to detect explosives from safe stand off distances, at the terrorist laboratories or at the raw material acquisition stage, has to get success to handle suicide bombers.
Again forensic interrogation and forensic psychology are now on priority list with investigating agencies dealing with terrorist cases. Now with narco - analysis and brain finger printing techniques, the information relating to crime stored in the brain can be revealed. The future plans of terrorists can be deciphered and action can be initiated to prevent occurrence of the crime. The co - conspirators and their whereabouts can also be ascertained. The reasons behind witnesses turning hostile can also be ascertained through these techniques.
IT has given completely new shades and dimensions to criminal profiles. Digital pornography, staganography, spywares, e- mail threats, e- transaction frauds etc. are of recent origin but have become serious threats to social peace & security. E - mail tracking tools along with e- mail data mining and filtering tools at ISP and server points have become essential for the investigating agencies. Staganographic detection and filtering tools are emerging to defeat the ill intentions of criminals. Cryptographic and password cracking tools are helping the security agencies to decipher the hidden information. For safety purposes the operational aspects of computers and cell phones and all sorts of access control systems are now going to be monitored by integrated biometric tools against impersonation and
Now it is a fact that internet has become the biggest store house of knowledge – for good purposes and also for criminal purposes. It is not only a knowledge bank for children, adults or elders and but also an efficient and cost effective medium of audio/video communications. But these are now a matter of concern in respect of terrorist and anti - social activities. Now scientists are working to bring out preventive forensic tools against these dangerous internet audio/video
It is predicted that during 2006, internet will also be put to use for management of house hold articles like fridge, washing machine, pressure cooker, room cleaner, room heater etc. At the same time, it is feared that anti social elements will misuse the beneficial tools by releasing anti - activity softwares which can undo your commands without your knowledge and even can do harm to all your systems. Again same operational tools in their hands can be put to fire guns or even explode bombs remotely.
However the new internet version assures that it has incorporated security features for a safe internet usage in every walk of life whether it is e-transaction or audio/video communication or internet operational aspects of house hold articles. Dedicated internet facilities are coming soon in the field of medical tele- diagnostics, medical tele- surgeries and medical status on tele- monitoring systems. Now target oriented low frequency portable electromagnetic radiation tools have been developed which can remotely be used by criminals on our body parts and create havoc in respect of brain damage, heartache, kidney failure, lever damage, etc. But the criminal will leave no trace of his involvement through these criminal acts and these are going to be a big challenge to forensic experts. However, the scientists plan to use the same technique on suicide bombers. Through this technique they expect to control the mind of suicide bomber and make him to leave the place silently without making any effort to explode the bomb at the given target area. Now- a - days spywares are rampant on internet. These enter the computer systems through e- mail or free downloads and then scan and sniff the desired information to pass it on silently to the perpetrator who in turn can do harm with the sniffed or leaked information, specifically in respect of bank account numbers., I.D. number, social security number (in US) etc. This has become a nuisance for e-transactions where your bank account number and other information can be used to draw money. To overcome this sort of e- attacks or e- sniffing, anti - spywares have surfaced which will filter out such unauthorized concealed attachments.
Now with cell phone cloning technique, one can make phone calls at others expenses. Scientists are now serious to arrest this menace and prevent this sort of crime through punching an authorization code into the phone each time a charge is made. But recently introduced life time cell charging facility has thrown a challenge to the authorization code which is yet to pick up score in the commercial market. In jails, criminals talk with co - conspirators on cell phones, which is not permitted. Cell phone jammers in jails make the cell phones non -functional. This arrangement also puts the jail officers and visitors into inconvenience. To overcome this problem, now cost effective frequency selection wall paper screens (FSS) with metal grids have been designed in an intricate pattern to filter all radio signals and silence the cell phones in the jail through this cost affective technique. Again this arrangement can also act as cell phone detector (when not switched off) for jail authorities.
It is now feared that it may not be impossible for hi -tech criminals to have their own portable high powered electromagnetic/ microwave controlled tools. This will bring a dangerous turn of events in the society. Preventive forensic tools have to concentrate on techniques to detect and incapacitate such tools and also prevent from actual operation by anti social elements.
Now going for biotechnology, it is again feared that genetically modified food articles have critical genetic effects on human beings and animals. But they are being put into regular market as a criminal activity which can result long term genetic effects and defects on living beings. Now it is also seen that in the name of stem cell therapy, fake claims are there which have created psycho -fear in the minds of common man.
Now- a - days, it is seen that small radio isotope sources used for diagnostic purposes and for therapy in hospitals and for R&D purposes in universities and research organizations are pilferaged and are used in making dirty bombs which after explosion can have severe radiation effect on water resources, plants, animals and even on human beings.
Critical infrastructures like national tele communication facility, power grid control system, automated aviation safety system, automated railway safety system, satellite control station, defence preparedness centre, tele- medicine facilities, tele- transaction facilities etc. are also facing grunt of criminal assaults. Now it has become a routine affair that all national critical infrastructures are e- controlled. The employees or ex- employees are mostly seen to have involvement in IT - related crimes. They are now highly prone to terrorist threats. But scientists have succeeded in controlling critical infrastructures by self diagnostic tools which can act against any sort of intentional human interventions and set right the faults to save them from major disasters. These intelligent and dynamic security
management tools will not allow one man dictation to make the infrastructure to face any disaster and to fall prey to the crime.
It is seen that major IT related crimes are the brain child of employees or ex- employees who know “ins and outs ”of the whole system. Honesty and integrity of the employees speak success of any system. Unethical practices of the employees can lead to disasters. To prevent from such disasters, time is not far off when the employees will be subjected to lie- detection and brain fingerprint tests to prove their honest mental status. Now portable but powerful lie- detectors, fitted to sunglasses with real -time analytical facilities, are now commercially available. These will definitely act as an aid to investigation process.
Plastic explosives like RDX give out very little amount of vapours which make the vapour detecting tools ineffective. The criminals take advantage of the situation to smuggle RDX for criminal activities. The problem has now been tackled with introduction of specific chemical taggants having high vapour pressure in plastic explosives which can easily be detected by usual vapor detectors. Again if explosives are hidden in hermetically sealed containers, they can be detected and identified through a recently introduced special x- ray imaging software. The same is also now being introduced for scanning big containers which are responsible to smuggle huge quantity of plastic explosives. Again tera hetz- ray instrumentation with special image processing software can be used as a “see through ”tool against concrete walls or body covers.
Powerful night vision devices and video cameras with special softwares act as failure proof sentinels in border areas/restricted zones against unauthorized intrusion by terrorists/criminals.
It is claimed that confidential/top secret data in stand alone computers is considered to be safe against data pilferage. But now electromagnetic capturing devices can capture the data when the same is entered into or analyzed by a stand alone computer and then through a special dedicated software can be deciphered and reproduced even from 100 meters. The tool when in the hands of govt. secret agents can be used to compile data from suspect computers of criminals/terrorists and take steps to fail their ill intensions but when in the hands of criminals, it can be used to collect all govt./defence secret information which is actually not in the interest of the nation. But in such situations, scientists make use of electromagnetic shielding facilities to contain the data to the computer alone. Again there is one more criminal activity for stand alone computers i.e. theft of hard disc which is actually the store house of the whole data/information. But RFID embedded hard disc when removed from computer systems raises alarm and also helps in tracking down the criminal.
Firearms may be good for self defense but they are dangerous in the hands of criminals/terrorists. They forcefully or illegally take possession of the firearms and create terror. But now the new generation of firearms are with such hardwares and softwares that they can recognize the grip of the authorized person only and will refuse to fire for others. In some other preventive measures, the triggers are embedded with fingerprint sensors which will only allow the authorized fellow to fire. In some other cases, the trigger can only be activated with an IR sensor. It is often seen that the terrorists ambush police/para military and military personal and snatch their firearms and communication tools. The snatched firearms/communication systems if embedded with RFID chips can be tracked and seized. Now also e- controlled firearms have surfaced which will allow only authorized person to fire. In this situation, the snatched firearms can not be used to fire as per the will of the criminal.
Determining time, place and direction of firing is a big question mark for ballistic experts. But experiments have been successfully conducted by incorporating GPS receivers and other devices which record exact place, time and direction of firing from a firearm. This system has great relevance to forensic investigation and reconstruction of shooting incidents.
Now super caustic chemicals have surfaced which can if spread in atmosphere make the chip boards in digital tools inoperative and ineffective. Details are available for all on internet. If these fall in the hands of criminals, they can make every thing to come to stand still and create hell on earth. Detection of the chemicals & prevention aspects have become a challenge to forensic chemists. Computer designed chemicals can now play havoc in the hands of anti - social elements. Specially cultured bacteria can be used by criminals to corrode and degrade components of computer/electronic/communication systems. Acoustic beams and blinding laser tools can destroy sensors used for detecting explosives and narcotic drugs and can even cause nasty consequences to the victims. Scientists have devised a number of anti - material technological innovations like natural inhibitors and wireless stun devices which help in immobilizing the suspects at a safe distance. But these will not go to the extent of killing any individual.
Non - nuclear electromagnetic pulse generators can destroy or disable power system, electronic circuiting, communication and computer systems.
Portable high power microwave generator can also destroy/damage electronics, explode ammunition or disable vehicles run with electronic ignition or controls. Internal combustion engines can be disrupted through special chemical
compounds. These chemical compounds would temporarily contaminate fuel or change its viscosity to degrade engine function.
Recently introduced i -pod have become a device that should be looked for in the diverse crime scene of today. The cyber forensic practitioners of tomorrow will not only find the i -pod in their crime scenes, but also a diverse array of unique devices that have not been thought of yet. The cyber forensic community must be ready to accept this continued evolution of technology and respond with theories, tools, methods & practices to account for the ever challenging technology world. The so called non -lethal weapons developed for helping law enforcement agencies are now feared to have been smuggled into the domain of anti social elements and terrorists. These have now given a challenge to forensic technology and thus have accelerated the process of opting preventive forensics to minimize the misuse of tools by the criminals.
I have given few examples of challenges from modern crimes & latest forensic trends which clearly show that forensic activism in the crime ridden society is not far off and preventive forensics is going to play a major role in the criminal justice system. I wish Govt. will strengthen forensic technology in a mission mode for a crimeless rural and tribal population and to fight against the growing crime pattern which stands in the way of developmental activities in agriculture, medicine, economics, industry, communication etc.