The ever-contentious fans of subcontinental cricket teams are carrying their rivalry from the stadia to cyberspace. Not content with jeering and booing each other and each other’s heroes, fans with a hacking bent of mind are taking their war into the social media.
The latest cyberspace skirmish came after a Bangladeshi fan displayed a poster showing a morphed image of Bangladesh bowler Taskin Ahmed carrying the head of Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni like a trophy during the Asia Cup T-20 tournament in Bangladesh earlier this month. While India won the cup beating Bangladesh in the final, the image of Taskin’s triumphalism went viral on the internet.
Stung to the quick by this, a group of hackers based in Kerala leapt to the defence of Dhoni by busting scores of Bangladeshi websites, including three government ones. It took the Kerala hackers, who band together as the Kerala Cyber Warriors but keep their individual names secret, only a few hours to attack 20 Bangladeshi websites.
"Bangaldeshi cricket fans trolled Dhoni with a morphed picture and their troll went viral all over the social media. So we defaced 20 websites to show them that they cannot mess with us," Red Lizard (the code-name of one of the members of Kerala Cyber Warriors) told Express.
Needless to say, this is not an isolated case. Aside of cricket jingoism, the hackers claim to be motivated by social purpose and arrogate to themselves the role of ethical hackers.
In the first six months of coming together, Kerala Cyber Warriors claim to have busted sex rackets run on the internet. "We found two admins of a page running an online sex racket. Their page "kochu sundarigal" had pictures of young girls with sexually provocative captions. After our intervention, Facebook took down the page," a team member said.
Kerala Cyber Warriors are a team of 15 college dropouts whose self-given mandate is to fight cyber infiltration by Pakistani groups. "Many Pakistani hackers infiltrate Indian websites to paste messages like "Free Kashmir,". We track such sites and delete their hacked messages and scripts. Search for the hashtag #OP_PAK_CYBER_SPACE, and you will come across the FB pages brought down by us," said a team member.
Red Lizard said the team has found scores of trafficking or women’s harassment rackets on the internet. He says Kerala Cyber Warriors tracks pages of people who peddle the phone numbers of women that they extract from the internet. Some admins sell these numbers online. The warriors say they track such pages and have them brought down. "The admins of such pages extract phone numbers of young girls without their knowledge. One admin used to sell these phone numbers to his customers. As a result, the girls used to get obscene messages from random numbers. We hacked these pages to end the nonsense," he said.
Ethical hackers policing the internet for sex rackets and pedophiles is a growing phenomenon in India, especially since a group known as Unknown TV busted a few notable paedophiles in the UK. Members of the group pose as minors on social media and sting men seeking physical relations with minors. While cricket jingoism can be quite a distraction, members of Kerala Cyber Warriors say their real purpose is to make social media safer.