Cases of hoax emails in past remain unsolved

Published on Jul 19, 2022 12:33 AM IST

On April 8 and 9, At least 15 schools in Bengaluru received a bomb threat via email. According to police, the email was sent multiple times to schools on the IDs available on their website. Some schools received as many as 140 emails.

Chitra Ramkrishna has been associated with the NSE in different roles since its formation in early 1990s. (Archive)
Chitra Ramkrishna has been associated with the NSE in different roles since its formation in early 1990s. (Archive)
By, Bengaluru

The hoax call to a private school in Bengaluru was the latest in a string of threatening emails issued to schools across the city.

On April 8 and 9, At least 15 schools in Bengaluru received a bomb threat via email. According to police, the email was sent multiple times to schools on the IDs available on their website. Some schools received as many as 140 emails.

In the days that followed, Karnataka police registered a case under cyber terrorism and the south division of Bengaluru was asked to probe the case. It was the first threat email case to be registered under a cyber terrorism charge, and police are yet to make any arrests.

According to police, since more than 15 cases were reported across the city, the task of investigating all the cases was given to the Bengaluru south division. While the team by the Bengaluru police didn’t give any leads, a probe by Madhya Pradesh police has provided the police with a breakthrough in the case.

The cyber-crime branch of the Madhya Pradesh Police in April tracked a 17-year-old boy from Salem in Tamil Nadu, who created and sold ‘bots’, which were used to send hoax bomb threats via emails to around a dozen educational institutes in Bhopal. It was later found that the same bots were used in the Bengaluru hoax call case as well.

An internet bot is a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet, usually with the intent to emulate human activity, such as messaging, on a large scale.

The teen created the bots and sold them to an unidentified person for 200 dollars over a ‘Telegram’ messaging app in March this year, according to the MP Police. Bengaluru Police suspect that the person, who purchased the bots from the minor, was behind the hoax emails sent to the schools in the city.

Salem DCP (Crime Branch) Amit Kumar told PTI that the police team reached his house on May 16. He said that the boy was a minor and was not arrested, but was questioned.

A senior IPS officer in Bengaluru said that based on the investigation of Madhya Pradesh police, Bengaluru police collected information. “We have found that the emails that were sent to schools in Bengaluru were sent using this bot. But from our investigation, we found that he doesn’t know the identity of the person who sent the mail. He has sold the bot off Telegram and he sold the same to many others as well, like some marketing companies. We are collecting more information from him to take the case forward,” the officer gave an update on the case.

The Bengaluru police invoked stringent cyber terrorism provisions in the case linked to bomb hoaxes, which was a change in the procedure for the cops. The invoking of such stringent charges is likely to impact how the police handle hoaxes going forward, officials aware of the developments said.

According to senior officers, cases of hoaxes are usually charged under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. However, since the threats to schools had caused widespread panic and impacted the lives of people, they were applying cyber terrorism provisions under section 66 (F) of the Information Technology Act, he said.

Cyber terrorism charges were last imposed in Karnataka in 2014 against Mehdi Masroor Biswas, an engineer who allegedly ran a pro-Islamic State Twitter handle. In its charge sheet, Bengaluru police claimed that Biswas would monitor the developments of the IS on the internet and TV and assist his followers, who were willing to enter the IS territory. He would tweet about vulnerable sections along the border based on which volunteers entered the IS territory, the charge sheet added.

In 2016, two students were arrested for sending hoax emails threatening to bomb Bengaluru’s international airport. The duo were booked under sections 177 (false information), 505 (public mischief), 507 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication) and 385 (putting a person in fear of injury to commit extortion) of the IPC.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.

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