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Terrorists have the tech advantage

Nandini R Iyer lists some examples of the technology that terrorists are using to stay one step ahead of counter-terrorism forces.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2006 20:19 IST

Five-digit detonation codes, fifth country servers and GSM triggers. They sound like gobbledygook, but are actually examples of the technology that terrorists are using to stay one step ahead of India's counter-terrorism forces.

"Terrorists and insurgents are increasingly resorting to the use of cutting-edge technology to disrupt life," JK Sinha, outgoing director general, Central Reserve Police Force, said at the recent inauguration of a school for counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism in Himachal Pradesh.

“Terrorists don’t have to complete forms in triplicate and wait for clearance to buy equipment,” says a government expert, who demanded anonymity, illustrating how bureaucracy made the catch-up game that much harder. He and other officials gave examples of such cutting-edge technology.

• In preventing the detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), most experts have training and access to equipment that deals with three-digit technology, i.e., devices which jam three ranges of frequency bands simultaneously. A few government agencies have access to four-digit technology, but terrorists have already switched to five-digit technology, sources told HT.

• Using mobile phones to trigger IEDs may sound old, but is actually uncommon. During the past two years, when Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast were opened up to cellular service providers, there has been a dramatic increase in the cases of mobile phone detonated IEDs. Terrorists earlier relied on radio frequencies for the detonation; now they have switched to GSM and CDMA technology for triggers. These networks frequently shift frequencies, and that helps evade jamming.

• To evade their Internet usage, terrorists now use fourth or fifth country servers. “While such messages can be tracked through painstaking investigation, much time is lost,” says a senior intelligence official. “An attack might already take place by the time such a message is intercepted.

• Car bombs are increasingly difficult to detect, and there has been a marked increase in their use in Kashmir.

• Regarding satellite phones, terrorists are not using India-based INMARSAT, but rely entirely on Thuraya, the Dubai-based satellite service provider, which is impossible to tap. “We need tangible evidence against the user, and require government-to-government intervention to get permission for tapping such phones,” says a senior IPS official on deputation to an intelligence agency. “If we had that kind of evidence, would not tap their phones, we would simply arrest them.”

First Published: Dec 01, 2006 19:22 IST