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Saturday, September 30, 2006

India BPOs under scanner after TV channel exposes data leak

The more detail of the report can be reached here.

India's Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry received a serious jolt when a TV channel promised to telecast the issue of growing concern over vulnerability of data security in BPOs and call-centers in India.

The London daily, the Sunday Times, quoting an "investigative" report by Channel 4, said that the credit card data, along with passport and driving license numbers, are stolen from call centers in India and sold to the highest bidder.

"Middlemen are offering bulk packages of tens of thousands of credit card numbers for sale. They even have access to taped telephone conversations in which British customers disclose sensitive security information to call center staff," The Sunday Times reported in a shocking expose.

According to industry sources, many BPOs, including Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Zenta and Office Tiger, carry out cash recovery for American Express, Chase Bank and Capital One Bank. They collect credit card and bill payments from US citizens.

Industry sources say India does banking transactions at a substantially lower price (about 40 percent lower than the US).

Channel 4 is understood to have spent over a year trying to locate security lapses in India's call centers.

The program titled 'The Data Theft Scandal' is a part of Channel 4's investigative series 'Dispatches' that will be telecast in the UK on October 5.

Last June, the HSBC employee in Bangalore was arrested after £ 230,000 was stolen from British customers' accounts.

However, this time, unlike the HSBC-like cases where BPO employees were in the firing line, the charges are against middlemen.

Presently, the only available information is that Channel 4 has on record a middleman named Sushant Chandak offering to sell a database with the credit card details of 2,00,000 people as commercial "leads." At a meeting in Calcutta, he seems to have boasted of a network of agents in call centers across India.

In addition to credit card numbers, Chandak was also offering passport numbers, driving license numbers and personal banking details, the report alleged.

In a separate meeting, Chandak offered the details of 8,000 British mobile phone users. He even apparently had tapes of customers being called at home from a call center.

A second New Delhi-based middleman known as Ghufran is offering details of customers with Halifax, Nationwide, Woolwich, Bank of Scotland and NatWest for £ 5 each. The details are believed to have been obtained from purchases using cards, the report claims.

Ghufran claimed the information was obtained by technical support staff which visited call centers and used memory sticks to download recent sale transactions.

Interestingly, according to the newspaper, Chandak and Ghufran have denied selling information unlawfully. Chandak reportedly said the information he provided was not genuine while Ghufran said he was passed the data.

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