IS terrorists in India, abroad using much more secure Threema (Ld)
New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) Amid the debate over privacy concerns, several people are switching to Telegram and Signal from WhatsApp. However, terrorists in India and abroad are using a much more advanced secure messaging platform to communicate with their counterparts across the globe without being traced and without leaving any digital footprint, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe has revealed.
The NIA during its probe into the Islamic State Iraq and Syria Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) case has found that arrested accused Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh and Bengaluru-based doctor Abdur Rahman aka ‘Dr Brave’ were using Threema, a secure messaging platform.
Wani and Beigh were arrested in March 2020, while Rahman was caught in August.
In a statement on January 12, an NIA spokesperson had said: “Till recently Rahman was in regular communication with ISIS terrorists located abroad as well as in India, including Sami on ‘Threema’, a secure messaging platform.”
The revelations were made on Tuesday when the anti-terror-probe agency filed a chargesheet against Rahman, who had returned from Syria in December 2013 and was misusing his medical knowledge to develop a laser-guided missile system for the banned terror group.
According to NIA officials connectd to the probe, who wished to remain anonymous, Rahman was using his knowledge of ophthalmic lasers for developing a project on a laser-guided system through which the trajectory of an unguided missile can be changed with laser technology for the benefit of the ISIS.
The official said that the “basic components” for such a system are pulse transmitters and receivers, which are the same or almost similar in flight circuits or opthalmology nanosecond lasers and could be used to guide missiles or rockets or payloads towards the intended targets.
The NIA ISKP case is based on the one registered by Delhi Police’s Special Cell in March 2020 after the arrest of Wani and his wife from Okhla Vihar in Jamia Nagar area here for alleged links with the terror group.
The NIA had taken over the probe on March 20, 2020.
However, this is not the first time that the NIA has come across the secure messaging platform used by the IS terrorists as well as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Qaeda terrorists.
Earlier, various top investigative agencies in India have taken the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to crack the messages of the terrorists in connection with several cases.
An NIA official, who was part of the probe into the 2019 Pulwama terror attack, wishing not to be named told IANS, “Cracking the messaging code of the terrorists was a challenge for us in the beginning. But once we got terrorist Mohammad Umar’s phone, we got the entire data extracted by forensic experts in the country.”
The official said that the data was “humongous”. “The data was studied and analysed threadbare. It included several voice notes of terrorists as well,” the official added.
On February 14, 2019 40 CRPF troopers were killed after an IED driven vehicle hit the CRPF convoy.
The NIA and the Intelligence Agencies in their probe had earlier found that Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were using peer-to-peer software service — YSMS — or a similar mobile application to communicate with their counterparts in India and abroad.
An NIA source connected to the probe told IANS: “The terrorists are using Threema application as well as its desktop version as it leaves minimal digital footprint making it almost impossible to be traced back.”
“Tracing of the message or call generated from the Threema is tough.”
According to NIA officials, Threema is a secure messaging platform which has been developed in Switzerland and is a paid open-source end-to-end encrypted instant messaging application for iPhone and Android smartphones.
The source said that on Threema like so many other secure applications, a user does not have to enter an email address or phone number to create an account, thus allowing the user to use the service with a very high level of anonymity.
The source said that Threema also hides all the tracks of the user as it minimises the footprint on servers that route traffic.
The source claimed that on Threema the contacts and messages are stored on the user’s device, instead of on the server.
He said that Threema offers text and voice messages, voice and video calls, groups and distribution lists as features in the application, thus allowing the terrorists to remain “untraced”.
The official said besides the mobile application, there is also a browser-based secure desktop chat option of Threema which also does not log IP addresses or metadata of the user.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)