Seven held in Andhra for hacking passport software (Lead)

June 4th, 2010 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, June 4 (IANS) Seven people were arrested in Andhra Pradesh for hacking the online passport application software of the Hyderabad regional passport office, police said Friday.
Police Commissioner A.K. Khan told reporters that seven people, among them five passport agents, were arrested and a search was on for two other agents involved in the racket.

The passport office releases online slots for confirmed dates of appointments to the applicants for obtaining passports under ‘Tatkal’ scheme through its website www.passport.gov.in.

Every day these slots were visible to the users only for a few minutes till the slots released by the passport authorities were exhausted.

The accused hacked the website, blocked the online slots and were selling the same to the applicants for huge sums, police said.

Police claimed that the gang uploaded about 3,000 passport applications during the last two months.

The police commissioner’s Task Force took up the inquiry after passport office authorities grew suspicious and lodged a complaint.

Police arrested main accused Gorantla Lathadhara Rao in Guntur district.

The 36-year-old, who holds a post-graduate diploma in computer applications, was uploading online passport applications for Shaik Subhani, a travel agent in Guntur district.

Seven passport agents in Hyderabad had conspired with Subhani and started sending the passport applications to him through email for obtaining confirmed dates of appointment with passport office.

Rao hacked the website and gained access to the server of the National Informatic Centre (NIC). He succeeded in submitting the passport applications with confirmed dates under Tatkal scheme, though such dates were yet to be released by the passport authorities officially.

Though the administrators of the website were rectifying the bugs, Rao could overcome the blocks successfully because of his acquired knowledge and expertise in hacking,

Police also seized Rao’s laptop along with the wireless internet modem and computer systems used by the passport agents in their offices and copies of passport applications.

Over 100,000 applications are pending in the passport office here. There have been allegations of corruption with alleged collusion between employees and agents leading to inordinate delays in obtaining passports.

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