Indian IS operatives bank on encrypted instant messaging apps

  • Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 01, 2016 01:05 IST
Recently-arrested Indian IS operatives were using online communication applications that claim to provide end-to-end encryption. (Shutterstock)

Online communication applications that claim to provide end-to-end encryption to those who love their privacy are emerging as favourite modes of contact in the jehadi world as well, counter-terror sources told HT.

A group of 14 terror suspects busted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) more than 10 days back was found using a similar communication application Sure****(name withheld) that has emerged as a favourite among those who have been found linked with the Islamic State, say investigators.

“The group of IS-inspired suspects was brought together by Shafi Armar, an alleged Indian Mujahideen member who first shifted loyalty to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and then to the IS. Shafi is now in the IS-held area along the border of Iraq and Syria. Shafi first spotted the boys with radicalised leanings on social media platforms and brought them in touch with each other. He then asked them to use Sure****, which is used by IS-linked modules all over the world,” said an investigator who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the probe.

Investigators say Sure**** is an open source instant messaging application that focuses on privacy and security. It uses end-to-end chat encryption by default.

“Some members of the group, with prior knowledge of computer software and hardware, have done extensive research on safer online modes of communication. But even those members of group who have not studied much were, like Mohammad Nafees Khan who didn’t go beyond primary school, found to be very proficient in using various mobile applications. Khan was tasked with organising meetings of like-minded boys spotted by Shafi or other IS recruiters,” said the investigator.

Khan was also allegedly tasked with procuring weapons for which he visited the bordering areas of West Bengal, said sources. The group – named Junood Khilafa-e-Hind – was allegedly headed by a Mumbai resident Muddabir Sheikh, the NIA has said.

Another favourite application of the group was Tri***** (name withheld) that connects to multiple instant messaging services and allows users to create multiple connections to the same service.

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