NEWS & UPDATES

Army yet to hack new terror tech

More than a year after a new technological solution used by terrorists began causing headache to the Army in Kashmir, no breakthrough has been made to crack it. Terrorists infiltrating from Pakistan have been using smartphones paired with very high frequency (VHF) radio sets to communicate with one another, resulting in a drop in communication intercepts and adversely affecting military efforts to deal with them. Sources say an indigenous software patch for intercepting the new mode of communication has failed. “An indigenous contraption was developed and tested in various spots under the Northern Command in recent months. It failed to locate any communication on the YSMS [pairing of smartphones with radio sets to send out short SMSs],” an Army source said. “They [the developers] claimed that there were no infiltrating terrorists in the areas, but our inputs contradict their claims,” he said. The Defence Research and Development Organisation is believed to have developed the contraption. Security establishment estimates show that in South Kashmir, anywhere between 40 and 50 terrorists entered from Pakistan this year. A senior officer in the Army Headquarters said the official estimate was 38. However, the Army has had only one communication intercept this year in Kupwara and surrounding areas, the key routes for infiltration, against an average of one or two a month earlier.   The concept of pairing mobile phones with radio handsets originated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012. This mode of sending mobile communications without using mobile towers is of great help for rescue operations during calamities, but is now among the key technology deployed by terrorists to avoid the security forces while crossing the Line of Control. Terrorists also use other technologies such as self-destroying chats and end-to-end encryption to overcome interception. The specifics of the mobile phones being paired with radio sets emerged when the Army nabbed Pakistani militant Sajjad Ahmad last August. He was arrested after three others who infiltrated with him were killed in a cave in south Kashmir. He told them about the pairing of smartphones with radio sets to send SMSs, SOS appeals or the exact location to other paired devices using line-of-sight very high frequency. This technology is secure and active even in high peaks and forests especially near the Line of Control where conventional mobile and satellite phones can give away their location. A YSMS gadget recovered was a Samsung smartphone paired with a traditional radio set, and not the special GoTenna gadget developed in the U.S. after Hurricane Sandy. This means the solution is either a Chinese or a Pakistani one.

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