Lest technology should do us in…

411

Bashir Assad

OVER a period of time, terrorism in the Kashmir region has acquired new dimensions. Notwithstanding the fact that there are efforts from the government and its armed forces to de-platform the online terror activities, the terrorists are reportedly adapting to new strategies of communication, leaving security and intelligence agencies clueless at times.

Suspension of online accounts of terror propagation, deplatforming, removal of online content and building pressure on online multi-national companies to remove terrorist propaganda and above all, tightening the noose around terror apologists, has, to a great extent, helped the state in containing terror activities.

However, there are reports suggesting that terrorists have altogether changed the strategy of communication. There are evidences indicating that terrorists and their over ground workers are strictly adhering to the new strategy, making it difficult for the ground forces to track and trace them.

It is believed that the highly sophisticated terrorists sitting across the Border, while taking a clue from the ‘dead drop’ format, have devised a novel communication skill wherein terrorists and their OGWs in Kashmir could connect without using the internet and the sim card.

The terrorists have been strictly told to restrict themselves to use dead drops with sophistication. Though the global terror networks like ISIS and Al Qaeda have been using such sophisticated modes of communication for many years, the terrorists operating in Kashmir have been introduced to the ‘dead drop’ format very recently.

It is believed that a terrorist commander namely Sajid Jatt @ Ali Sajid has been trained to communicate with the terrorists operating in Kashmir on several anonymous platforms. There are innovations in response to the disruption mechanism of the counter-insurgency grid.  The popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been substituted by encrypted platform, particularly Telegram and Signal. A new format has been introduced in Telegram where you don’t need an internet connection or hotspot or username.

 

A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, tells Kashmir Central that the terrorists and OGWs are now being told to buy new smartphones and upload the Telegram app without using the sim-card and internet. It is now done through Bluetooth tethering. “You are not required to use the internet or connect through hotspot, you simple share the Telegram application from a used device to the new one through Bluetooth tethering,” tells the police officer, adding that the app is then synched with a mobile number either in Pakistan or elsewhere outside India. Each time a password is generated by the sim-card user in a foreign country, which is shared with the device holder in Kashmir, they can easily talk. Here too, they are very intelligently using the secret chat which is deleted after the conversation ends. It has somehow hindered the mapping of terror ecosystem. And this is precisely why there is a lull in counter terrorism operations. “You might have noticed not many arrests are being effected currently. This is because the information flow is missing. We are not able to generate technical intelligence because terrorists hardly use the internet,” says the officer.

Previously, the terrorists would use the internet and the cyber cells of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and other intelligence agencies would generate information on the basis of location, and share it with the operational wings for further action. Now they are not using the internet and sim-cards. Terrorists use an anonymous sharing platform that does not require registration and there is password-protected access.

The migration by terrorists to cloud sharing services like Telegram, that too without the internet and sim-card is posing a great challenge to the security. One such platform is Telegraph by Telegram. “You don’t need an account here to operate. This is very safe from the terrorists’ point of view. The anonymity of Telegraph has attracted terrorists and OGWs in greater numbers and so far, has been a safe haven for them for information dissemination and interaction. It’s pertinent to mention, that the Telegraph and Telegram are strictly used by terrorists and OGWs for communicating with each other, not for uploading content. Content is uploaded in Pakistan only, according to police sources.

It is believed that terrorists operative from across the Border, have acquired a software lab and over a period of time, have been trained to use anonymous encrypted platforms. The terrorists and OGWs are offered classes almost on a weekly basis by using encrypted anonymous platforms and Telegram is the most popular.

Since the cyber department cannot trace and track the user because there is no use of internet or local sim-card, they interact regularly. “It is really difficult to enter into their room,” says the officer, adding that Sajid Jatt is the main handler of sophisticated encrypted platform.

Sajid, as per the police, had infiltrated in 2003 and was operating in South Kashmir for nearly two years. He received a bullet in an operation on his upper lip, right below the nose. Sajid ex-filtrated in 2005 or 2006. Since then, he is actively involved in mobilisation. He is a skilled orator and could instigate the vulnerable youth.

On the other hand, human intelligence is somehow growing week with each passing day. According to many, the government has stopped incentivising human intelligence due to which the information flow has suffered a setback.

Earlier, the government would incentivise the human intelligence and those providing information would be rewarded, and the information was flowing fast. Now the government has almost stopped incentivising human intelligence for the fact that the sources, at times, would act either ways. There were many instances where the source would indulge in subversive activities at the behest of terrorists.

However, it is being felt seriously that the generation of information on a technical basis, sometimes hits roadblocks because of the migration of terrorists to sophisticated encrypted platforms. Human intelligence is more important for twin reasons. One, it is near accurate, and second, the support system to counter terrorism strengthens.

Since January this year, just three or four encounters have taken place. Not many OGWs have been arrested during this period. On the other hand, foreign terrorists, according to military sources, have successfully infiltrated. Many foreign terrorists have been spotted in Kulgam and Pulwama districts.

 

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