Intel agencies on alert as Islamic State modules in Kerala switch to Wickr app
Both the NIA and the IB have been keeping track of devious new communication tools being used by the IS, including messaging apps that encrypt texts and destroy them almost immediately.
KOCHI: Intelligence agencies are vigilant of the shift Islamic State (IS) modules in the state are making to the Wickr communication app from Telegram, that is keeping the cyber monitoring departments of all enforcement wings on their toes.
Up until now, IS sympathisers were using Telegram; an app which agencies could tap into to access the messages being circulated on the phones of suspects. “Now, Wickr has turned out to be the main communication tool for the IS. It has become their app of choice, because it does not require a phone number or email address to download and use,” said a senior intelligence officer.
Citing a report by US-based terrorism analysis organisation MEMRI, officers said on October 25, a pro-IS media group posted on several of its Telegram outlets the file for the encrypted communication app Wickr, which is being widely used by IS supporters because it was safe to download and use. The group also alerted users that the Telegram account of one of its admins had been hacked “by Russians” and warned users not to save any personal information or photos on their Telegram accounts.
“Turned out Telegram is not safe at all,” it added. Both the NIA and the IB have been keeping track of devious new communication tools being used by the IS, including messaging apps that encrypt texts and destroy them almost immediately.
Manu P Zacharia, cyber security expert and member of Data Security Council of India, said in many cases, agencies cannot track the messages in real time because the phone companies and the app developers don’t retain a record of the messages which are encrypted and coded.
“Terrorist organisations keep changing their communication tools to avoid detection and the agencies try tapping into messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Kik, as well as data-destroying apps such as Wickr and Surespot which terrorists have embraced precisely because they guarantee security and anonymity,” he said.
Intelligence sleuths vigilant as IS scouts for fresh recruits on social media
KOCHI: Intelligence agencies are keeping a close watch on social media following cyber analysis reports of terrorist organisations, particularly the IS, scouting for fresh recruits. The terrorist organisations have an eye on people who are reposting, sharing and retweeting messages of pro-IS groups on Twitter and Facebook.
Intelligence officers said IS media groups are in constant touch with those who repost their messages on social media through encrypted communication apps such as Wickr. Rough estimates by agencies suggest over 50,000 people watch the propaganda messages of pro-IS groups circulated as videos, instruction manuals and appeals on social media sites.
“Social media groups keenly watch who is re-posting their messages and establish a direct link with such accounts. Later, they direct them to download apps like Wickr and start communicating directly,” said a senior officer.
Of late, the agencies have been very guarded in publicising the details of the social media accounts propagating IS messages. “These accounts act like a window and we just don’t want them to shut it,” the officers said. Officers said the agencies have been persistently demanding social media companies to give more access to data. Kerala Police (IT) SP J Jayanath said social media companies are reluctant to share data. “They share details of the messages and account only if they suspect paedophile activities by a user and even then we have to really convince them,” he said, adding many of the social media apps follow US laws.
Another cyber expert said messaging app companies repeatedly say the text of conversations only gets stored on the phones of the users involved in the conversation and not in their servers.
On their guard
Of late, the agencies have been very guarded in publicising the details of the social media accounts propagating IS messages as the accounts act like a window and they don’t want them to shut it