Centre Worried Over Cyber Terrorism As Stolen Phones Are Finding Way Into Pakistan
Stolen Indian phones are highly valued in Pakistan. Reason: They can be used there while their IP address is registered in India.This helps in spreading fake news more easily
by Meetu Jain
Government sources say cases of cross-border cyber terrorism, especially in the context of fake news, are increasingly being tracked to Pakistan.
The central government is concerned over the increasing number of stolen smartphones finding their way into Pakistan.
A recent study by the government on trans-border surveillance of fake WhatsApp messages reportedly found that second-hand stolen Indian phones are being sold at premium rates, sometimes even more than the cost of the originals.
Highly placed sources who are privy to the study said stolen Indian phones are valued in Pakistan because operators are able to use them in Pakistan while their IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers remain registered in India.
India Today TV has also learnt that there have been cases wherein the IP address and IMEI numbers of the phones indicate that it is registered in India, while their usage was traced to Pakistan.
Senior government officials privy to this said cases of cross-border cyber terrorism, especially in the context of fake news, are increasingly being tracked to Pakistan.
They said that in May, there were several controversial tweets about roads in cantonment areas being opened for civilian use. These tweets were also traced back to Pakistan.
"When we assessed online traffic at our gateways, we found that at least 10 Twitter messages and several forwarded messages on WattsApp came from across the border. We have conveyed our concerns to social media platforms," the senior officials said.
They added that among the social media platforms, the response from WhatsApp has not been positive.
"Their standard response is that the IP address pertains to a jurisdiction outside India. WhatsApp prefers to browbeat us rather than find a solution," the officials said.
They added that these concerns have been shared with the Ministry of Information Technology (IT).
Last week, in an advisory, WhatsApp promised to take measures to check spread of fake news. This was in the backdrop of increasing cases of mob lynching based on fake messages on WhatsApp.
Besides some user awareness initiatives, the social media outfit included a feature that showed a special tick mark to indicate that a message is a forwarded one.
Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he hopes that WhatsApp considers sensitivities of the Indian people, given that India is its largest market.
The government too is planning to introduce some measures to control fake information. These will later be shared with social media platforms.
Speaking about these measures, government sources said that one of them is to suggest WhatsApp to revoke access to the messaging platform from desktops.
"WhatsApp should be made accessible only on mobile phones. Besides this, the account opening details should be either from the same IP address or at least from the same email id," the official said.
There is also a suggestion that WhatsApp should start flagging content that is being generated from a stolen mobile phone.
"If the phone is registered in India and content is being generated consistently from it in Pakistan, then this should be flagged. The measures taken by WhatsApp so far are somewhat ridiculous. If someone wants to spread a rumour, how will a tick mark help," the official asked.
Meanwhile, cyber security experts argue that there are sufficient ways to track the originator of a message because a unique identity is created each time someone generates a new content. The key is getting access to the servers where the information is stored, they said.