Arms bazaar on Metaverse

Published on Nov 30, 2022 01:52 PM IST

The article has been authored by Soumya Awasthi, consultant, Tony Blair Institute, London.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others are being used by criminals in Pakistan to sell firearms and ammunition within the nation and to its neighbouring countries, such as Afghanistan and India.(AP)
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others are being used by criminals in Pakistan to sell firearms and ammunition within the nation and to its neighbouring countries, such as Afghanistan and India.(AP)
ByHindustan Times

Last week, Facebook put an end to a cyber espionage operation linked to hackers in Pakistan that targeted individuals in India, including military personnel and government officials. Security professionals refer to this Pakistani hacking collective as APT36. Their operational strategy reportedly comprised several techniques such as honey trapping and infecting victims' devices with malware, according to Meta's quarterly "Adversarial Threat Report." According to Meta's analysis, "Our study traced this behaviour to state-affiliated entities in Pakistan."

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others are being used by criminals in Pakistan to sell firearms and ammunition within the nation and to its neighbouring countries, such as Afghanistan and India. According to the Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Ummat, police in Karachi detained four members of this interstate criminal group and recovered a sizable cache of firearms and ammunition. The thieves created fake licences that appeared to have been given by Pakistan's interior ministry as part of the illicit arms trafficking operation, and they also publicised details regarding guns and ammunition on Facebook and other social media sites. The study also mentioned that QR codes were used for financial transactions.

Meta in its report mentioned that APT36 had trojanised the WhatsApp, WeChat and YouTube with other versions of malware like Mobzar or CapraSpy. In several other cases the group used modified version of a malware called XploitSpy available on Githhub.

According to the report, the firearms were purchased from Darra Adam Khel, a well-known center for smuggling illegal weapons, in the Kohat region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to the article, purchasers were required to pay 50% of the cost of the guns and ammunition upfront and the remaining 50% upon delivery in towns all over Pakistan. In addition, the publication claimed that private security firms were associated with the illicit weaponry trade.

Meanwhile, according to reliable sources, Pakistani authorities are aware of such risky criminal activity. In some circumstances, the country's spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) actively encourages and knows about the illegal trade in guns and ammunition. It further stated that various jihadist groups are smuggling illicit weapons and ammunition out of Afghanistan and that terrorist organisations like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are in charge of such illegal actions.

According to the report, TTP members purchase weapons, ammo, explosives, and even missiles from Afghanistan and then sell them to extremist Islamic militant organisations operating in India's Jammu and Kashmir. These guns and ammunition are shipped to Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Punjab, and other regions of India. Information also shows that these weapons and ammunition wind up in Bangladesh with militant groups.

The northeastern village of Darra Adam Khel, around 200 kilometres from Pakistan's capital Islamabad, reportedly has served as the centre of the illegal arms trade in this corner of the world for over 150 years.

Across 2,000 businesses sell a variety of firearms that have been produced in homes and workshops all over the area.

The manufacturing of the weapons, which include automatic weapons, specialist sharpshooter rifles, and pistols, is thought to employ more than 25,000 people. Until 2018, armed conflicts in the area and a lack of official control significantly contributed to the growth of the illegal arms trade in the town.

In Darra Adam Khel, where the cost of most replica weapons starts at about 30,000 Pakistani rupees ($160), a fake firearm might be less expensive than a cell phone. One of the most sought-after weapons in the nation is a replica AK-47, which costs around $110. Customers can purchase several kinds of ammo, magazines, flak jackets, binoculars, and other equipment in addition to firearms. Establishments that sell arms around here typically have workshops connected. So, for example, a gunsmith can create a handgun in just a few hours, but it can take up to six days to make a rifle.

However, the risky usage of antiquated equipment and technology leads to the death of numerous gunmakers. A local named Mohammad Awais verified that gunpowder is a significant factor in these fatalities, particularly in hot weather. Nevertheless, he added, this industry is a significant source of money for many people in the area and employs many youngsters. Even though the sector is illegal, most firearms made here are shipped to other regions of Pakistan or even abroad. Additionally, the village draws many local and international visitors, who increase the fame of Dara Adam Khel by posting films and images on social media.

Use of cyber malware has been often used by the hackers in Pakistan against India. In the past, Pakistan linked hackers have attacked significant Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) of India and, in fact, it was only last month that Turkey covertly helped Pakistan in setting up a cyber-army against India.

It is necessary, therefore, that India prepares to counter the cyber threat emanating from Pakistan. India has strengthened its cybersecurity capabilities by creating institutions like the Defence Cyber Agency and putting in place policy frameworks like the National Cyber Security Policy of 2013. It has helped India improve its ranking in the Global Cybersecurity Index 2020, published by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, by 37 places, from 47th position in 2018 to 10th position – above China at 33 and Pakistan at 79.

The article has been authored by Soumya Awasthi, consultant, Tony Blair Institute, London.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, February 09, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals