Cops don't want Wi-Fi on flyovers

MMRDA planned to install WiFi-enabled Internet connectivity on flyovers, but police fear that they can be used by anti-national elements to spread terror

It seems that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA) ambitious plans to install WiFi-enabled BTS on flyovers, skywalks, FOBs (foot over-bridges)  and subways in Mumbai have gone for a toss, as the Mumbai police have objected strongly to the project.

WI-FI wise: In the past, unsecured Wi-Fi connections have been hacked
by terrorists and used by them during attacks. Hence, city cops have
denied permission to the development body to set up Wi-Fi connections
on flyovers. PIC/Santosh Nagwekar

Confirming the development, an MMRDA official said, "We had plans to install WiFi-enabled BTS equipment at several locations across Mumbai, so that motorists and Mumbaikars could have access to seamless Internet connectivity while commuting. We had planned this project keeping in mind the fact that Mumbaikars are always on the move, made evident by the sheer number of vehicles on Mumbai roads at any given point in the day. We had planned this project in order to help them."

In the month of July last year, the planning authority had announced that it would be floating tenders for the project. A pre-bid meeting too had been held on August 19, 2011.

"However, when the MMRDA approached the Mumbai police for clearance on the project and the related no-objection certificate, they objected to it, citing security reasons," confirmed the official, requesting anonymity.

An independent study conducted by consultant KPMG and released in 2010 had revealed that 60 per cent of the business wireless networks and 48 per cent of the home wireless networks in Mumbai have either no or limited protection, and are vulnerable to misuse by anti-nationals.

As per the MMRDA's plans, WiFi-enabled BTS equipment was to be installed on poles on the MMRDA's 10 flyovers, 12 subways and 16 FOBs on the Eastern and Western Express Highways, and 36 skywalks in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, for a contract period of five years.

The motorists driving on some of the flyovers on the WEH and EEH have been facing problems because of the lack of network coverage, as their phones often lose Internet connectivity at some points on the flyovers.
In August last year, MiD DAY had reported that police officials have questioned the MMRDA's plan to install
WiFi-enabled BTS on the flyovers, skywalks, FOBs and subways in Mumbai. 'MMRDA Wi-Fi project could be a security threat, August 18, 2011).

Transport experts also opined that installation of WiFi would amount to nothing but a waste of public money. Speaking to MiD DAY, transport expert Jitendra Gupta concurred, "Rather than wasting money on installing WiFi-based BTS systems, the MMRDA should install CCTV cameras on the flyovers and skywalks, which are the need of the hour. They will be really helpful during emergencies, and the authority can also keep tabs on who is using the flyovers. Any vehicle using a flyover will have access to it for a maximum of two to three minutes, and using Internet for such a short period of time is impractical. Who is going to park the car on the flyover and use the Internet? The MMRDA's plan appears to be a waste of money."

"Mobile service providers these days offer GPRS and WAP services to their customers at cheap rates, so where is the need to install WiFi on flyovers? Rather, the MMRDA should install CCTVs on skywalks, as this will help keep tabs on the activities of anti-social elements. Having WiFi availability on the flyovers is risky, as anyone can use them to send fake threat mails," said Andheri resident Hitendra Pachkale.

Threats and Wi-Fi
There have been several instances in the past, wherein anti-national elements have misused unsecured Wi-Fi connections in parts of Mumbai to send terror mails. One such incident occurred in July 2008, when the wireless network connection of US national Ken Haywood was used by members of the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen to send emails to media houses, just minutes before terror attacks in Ahmedabad and Surat.

In another incident, an email sent minutes after the September 2008 serial blasts in Delhi was traced to a private company in Chembur, Mumbai. It is said that this email was also sent by hacking an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

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