'India Call Centre Staff Bribed'

Pete Warren, Evening Standard
10 February 2004


STAFF at call centres in India are being bribed by organised crime
and industrial spies to them help hack into the computer systems of
British firms.

In at least two recent cases, local IT staff working on the sub-
continent for UK institutions were involved in what industry sources
say were 'security issues' in what is described as the tiniest
fraction of a far larger problem.

In one case, sensitive financial information and credit card details
were apparently illegally taken from a leading British financial

A spokesman for the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) in Britain
said: 'This shows that there are some things that you really should
not send overseas. For organised criminals, this is a godsend.

'If you are using people in a low wage area, organised crime can
afford to pay a lifetime's wages for data.'

Richard Hollis, managing director of Orthus, an information security
solutions company in London, claims the problem is growing because
Indian staff have access to increasingly sensitive customer

He said: 'We're seeing a significant increase in security problems
associated with this type of outsourcing. Given that the majority of
hacking originates from within organisations, outsourcing
administrative responsibilities to an engineer making around £4,000
annually is asking for problems.

'The engineers employed by these firms are extremely skilled
technicians and since they already possess the passwords and
unrestricted access to the networks they service, they have quickly
become targets for organised crime and private investigative firms
looking to buy their way into a network.'

The revelations came after Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt chaired a
meeting last Monday to discuss the growing trend for call centres and
other outsourced tasks to be switched from Britain to India.

Several British firms including Aviva, BT, ebookers, HSBC and Tesco
have unveiled plans to relocate, or already created call centres in

Academics and industry experts believe this exodus could represent
just the tip of the iceberg as other service industries look set to

Manchester Business School's Professor Peter Barrah, author of the
International Handbook on Outsourcing, said: 'It's a trend that is
limited only by your imagination. There are some services that have
to be delivered here and now; for anything that is produced with, or
uses, a computer there is the potential for offshore outsourcing.

'There are companies that have now outsourced their strategy, the
development of their marketing campaigns and their new product

The DTI is currently commissioning research that it hopes will give a
clearer picture of the true trend of job migration.

In the UK, there are about 400,000 people involved in the call-centre
industry in about 5,500 call centres.

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