Post Pulwama attack, phishing attempts targeting soldiers on the rise

On Friday, the Ministry of Defence issued a statement which warned of a massive disinformation campaign by Pakistan on digital media.
Soldiers at the Pulwama suicide bomb attack site. (File Photo | PTI)
Soldiers at the Pulwama suicide bomb attack site. (File Photo | PTI)

BENGALURU: In the past three weeks since the terrorist attacks at Pulwama, armed forces personnel posted in sensitive areas, near the Line of Control or the international border with Pakistan, are geared up for a different kind of threat from across the border.

Every time tensions rise between the countries, Indian soldiers face a barrage of friend requests, deceptive calls and text messages from Pakistani Intelligence Operatives or PIOs, and this time around it is no different.

Keeping this in mind, government agencies have issued several advisories. Some of them are lists of fake social media profiles with the link to the profiles, asking all uniformed personnel to be wary of these accounts.

On Friday, the Ministry of Defence also issued a statement which warned of a massive disinformation campaign by Pakistan on digital media. “All ranks have been well sensitised of these disinformation campaigns and all ranks can see through the lie, deceit and deception of the terror sponsors,” the statement says.Honeytraps, emotional manipulations

The New Indian Express spoke to a few senior military officials who said that such advances made on social media are hardly new, but always increase when tensions between India and Pakistan are on the rise.
“Such lists are regularly shared within the fraternity and can be compiled by Army intelligence or branches of any of the Armed Forces or other security agencies. Every army officer is trained not to reveal the nature of their job on social media,” a Colonel from the Western sector said.

Explaining an incident that he personally came across, he said, “A senior officer’s son had once posted details of his father’s latest assignment as a Brigade commander in the East. This was spotted and the officer was called in and told to instruct his family not to share such details.”

Besides the small pieces of information that enemy intelligence can pick up from such posts, the danger of honey trapping officers or manipulating them into sharing information is also a real one. “They will send you friend requests and act like patriotic Indians just curious to know more about you,” an officer from Eastern Command said. One of the latest lists shared after the Pulwama attack and circulated among the armed forces has a list of profiles, most of them with Indian names, which are most likely fake.

Residents, journalists not safe from prying eyes too

These PIO’s also target people who stay near the International Border, or are visiting the place. They pose as freelance journalists, editors willing to pay for a story or even officials from New Delhi seeking official details, officers say. Narrating an incident which took place in Rajasthan, an official said, “This journalist was living very to the border and received a call where they told him that they would pay him Rs 1,000 for a 150 word article on an army offensive manoeuvres exercise. “He became suspicious when they told him that they wanted specific inputs on which battalions were participating and where they were located,” the official said. Luckily, there was no information leaked.

In November 2016, just a few months after the 2016 surgical strikes by India, the Army carried out heliborne exercises with the Indian Air Force in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. “A person called, claiming to be a former Indian Army officer, who left the army and joined a magazine in London. He wanted details of the exercise and listed out his former unit, his senior officers and other details. However, we did not share any information and asked him to go through proper channels,” another senior officer said.

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