Social network- The IM is here now
When the Indian Mujahideen orchestrated the recent spate of attacks across India, investigators took a while before they could figure out the modus operandi. Post 13/7 and the Delhi High Court blasts, what foxed investigators was the complete absence of telephone conversations that led up to the planning and the execution of these blasts.
Today the investigators are able to make some sense out of this and have realized that it was the social networking sites that were being used to communicate between the cadres. In addition to this, the police have also found that some cadres of the Indian Mujahideen were trying to conduct recruitment’s through their Facebook accounts through hidden messages.
The Indian Mujahideen has been quick in the use in the use of technology when it came to planning and executing their operations. They started out with the use of emails, then moved on to chats and later Skype through which they communicated. However when the police finally got wind of this, they improvised by using the drafts in a mail and also the cache to store their messages in accounts which was accessed through a common username and password.
Planning:Yasin Bhatkal who today is the big boy in the Indian Mujahideen had extensively used social networking sites to stay in touch with his fellow men in the outfit. Personalized messages were sent out and also status updates in coded forms were used to communicate his plans which eventually led to two very horrific blasts. According to the police the use of social networking commenced in the year 2008 itself, but then it was sparingly used at that time. They had a back up plan on hand and had decided on using social networking more extensively only if their other forms of communication failed.
However post 2008 there was very strict monitoring of the manner in which the IM cadres communicated amongst each other through emails and also phones which prompted them to use social networking sites extensively. The first use of social networking in a major way was visible during the Varanasi blasts. The accused who had fled India for Dubai orchestrated the Varanasi blasts through the use of social networking sites. The messages were simple and heavily coded language had been used to pass on information. It was at that time that the IM was looking to rebuild and they were content with smaller attacks just to keep the ball rolling and announce that they were not out of contention. Hence by intentionally maintaining a low profile and using very little man force they managed to carry out the Varanasi blasts.
The same was witnessed during the 13/7 and also the Delhi blasts. During the run up to these attacks, the IM cadres in India met directly and discussed their plans. They did realize that one on one meetings left very little trail. They then used these networking sites to communicate with their other counterparts who were in different locations. All this went unnoticed by the police which helped them execute their plans with a great deal of ease.
Shishir Gupta, the author of the book- Indian Mujahideen, Tracking the Enemy Within says. “ for an aspiring global power, India is very vulnerable to cyber attacks by terrorist groups. Since 2005 IM modules have been communicating through cyber space with the use of emails, Skype etc. Hence when we speak of the use of social networking sites, it is only natural that they would have upgraded their capabilities. With the option of mobile phones and also satellite phones out it was expected that they would use such sites to communicate. This in fact has proven to be a safe method of communication for them.
The Danger ahead: While now it is clear that the IM has been using social networking sites to communicate, there is also this danger where the recruitment’s are concerned. It is not necessary that they would continue to use very popular networking sites to communicate their plans amongst each other. The police are not ruling out a possibility of the use of lesser known sites for communication.
However the bigger worry ahead is the manner in which they would try and recruit and also communicate their agenda through such sites. The IM has been trying to fashion itself on the lines of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and has been quoting some social causes before they carry out their attacks. They are constantly looking for sympathy amongst the younger lot and have been successful to a large extent.
During the past couple of months it has been witnessed that some members of the outfit who are present on popular social networking sites have been sending out friend requests to college students, persons in high positions and also journalists. While they would snoop on some profiles the requests sent out to college students is nothing but a bait. Once the friend request is sent out, there are messages that are posted regarding the kind of news that is appearing against their community and also discussions regarding the various issues such as Godhra or a Babri are discussed thus dishing out sentiments. The success rate has not been all that great according to the police, but even they manage to bait one out of 20 people, the IM would be content.
Cyber security experts say that there is no one point solution to this problem. The cyber police need to constantly watch popular sites and also the activity over the internet. There is no point in finding out things after the damage has been done and it is necessary that the police remain one up on the game.