Centres of innovation

Published : May 18, 2007 00:00 IST

Taking on the Net's baddies today calls for state-of-the-art digital tools. Equipping India's law enforcement agencies to combat new-generation cyber crime has become a major challenge - and C-DAC scientists have taken on this task.

A Resource Centre for Cyber Forensics (RCCF) has been created at the Thiruvananthapuram Centre of C-DAC. It is funded by the central Department of Information Technology (DIT). It develops hardware and software tools to recover digital evidence from seized PCs and laptops and to analyse the hidden data in hand-held devices like mobile phones and pocket PCs.

One of its most compelling releases is a tool called CyberCheck, a suite of cyber-forensic applications which includes a disk image capturing capability (TrueBack); a data recovery and analysis tool (CyberCheck); an e-mail tracer and a tool to check the integrity of data (Hasher). It has proved so useful for Indian law enforcement agencies that a third version of CyberCheck was released recently.

Other C-DAC centres have addressed security concerns of Internet users. The Hyderabad centre has created an e-security solution called EnSafe, to protect the `end' or core operating systems from Internet security threats. The Bangalore centre, meanwhile, has developed Network Traffic Analyser or Netra" - a tool to detect proactively new Net attacks for which patterns of behaviour or `signatures' have not yet been established. It uses statistical methods and a special formula or algorithm to try and head off such threats to Net security.

C-DAC in Kolkata has developed tools in the emerging area of Steganography. This has been used for centuries to hide sensitive messages that were exchanged during war or other events calling for secrecy. The Internet has given steganography new life: text messages can be hidden within still and moving pictures, even audio files - the uncracking of such code is a science in itself. C-DAC's National Resource Centre for Steganography has developed StegoCheck (the latest version is 2.0) which uses complex mathematics to detect and extract hidden messages from most used carriers such as the JPEG format in which photos are saved and sent along with email.

Work being done at the Kolkata centre of C-DAC suggests that the sensitive nose and palate of a human tea taster could be assisted, if not replaced. Can one create an electronic nose? The olfactory sense is one of the most complex human capabilities to replicate. How does one capture an odour electronically?

The fermentation process in the making of tea is a critical operation. It is important that the leaf should ferment to an exact limit so that complex chemical changes can take place.

Human operators can sense the change from a `grassy' to a `floral' odour and they supplement the readings of a colorimeter that judges the fermentation by the colour of the product.

Now C-DAC scientists have designed an `electronic nose' to monitor the volatile emissions during fermentation and provide an accurate measure that can be used to control the process.

The system is also capable of sensing the volatile compounds of the finished tea sample and this might assist the taster in judging the flavour and aroma - and thereby the grade of the tea. Neural networks are used to correlate the sensors in the electronic nose array with standard tea taster scores.

The work of human tea tasters could get a little easier with the help of the electronic nose.

Anand Parthasarathy
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