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How real-time monitoring of data at rest helped crack the big ISIS inspired module in Delhi


New Delhi, Dec 27: There was quite a furore after the Union Home Ministry issued an order which authorised 10 agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt data from any computer in the country.

While many have raised privacy concerns, the fact of the matter is that this order is essential in the war against terror. Take for instance the investigation conducted into the Bodhgaya attack or the Tuesday bust of the Islamic State inspired modules in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

How real-time monitoring of data at rest helped crack the big ISIS inspired module in Delhi

A officer with the National Investigation Agency told OneIndia that the module busted on Tuesday was not an overnight operation. They were keeping a close watch on their activities for sometime now before they decided to swoop in.

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Monitoring the systems of such persons is extremely crucial to crack cases. They communicate through their systems and even on the social media. Communication data especially those on the social media are hard to retrieve and requests sent to the providers have 9 out of 10 times hit a dead-end.

In the investigations carried out in the Bodhgaya terror attack case, the probe appeared to have a hit a dead at the start itself. The NIA then sought permission of the Home Secretary to monitor the online communication of some suspects.

The real time monitoring of the conversations is crucial to any probe. In many cases, the agencies have had a tough time in monitoring conversations, especially on chat applications which have end to end encryption. Once such a conversation is tracked, then the de-coding technology is applied.

Now this is very time consuming, explains an officer. By the time the 256 bit encryption is broken, it takes a couple of weeks. By this time the information becomes useless and the suspects either get away or even go about their job.

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For the NIA in particular, the new order is extremely helpful. Earlier, the agencies could only intercept data in motion. The new order gives them the power to scan data at rest.

The Home Ministry order states that the ten agencies can scan data revived, stored and generated. Further the powers of seizure too have been given. Prior to this order the Intelligence Bureau did not have the powers of seizure. However with this order, the IB is well within its right to carry out a seizure.

Take for example, chat groups on the social media, which propagate about groups such as the Islamic State. The agencies from across the country have written to social media providers and the requests have been pending for several years and in some case over 10. There was no legal backing under which the data on the social media could be sought. This was a major hinderance and in several case especially those relating to terrorism, the probes had come to a standstill.

Most of those running terror modules, including those part of the one busted on Tuesday, relied heavily on online communication. The NIA in fact managed to bust the module in the nick of time. They had sourced material, raised funds and were all set to strike.

It was the real time monitoring, both online as well on the ground that helped the NIA crack this module. There were inputs about this module and the constant monitoring helped the NIA and police further develop the same before also carrying field verifications.

It was ascertained that the accused had mobilised funds and procured weapons, ammunition and explosive material to prepare IED's and bombs and they plan to carry out explosions and fidayeen attacks at places of importance in and around Delhi and also target crowded places.

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The NIA seized 25 kg of explosive material, such as Potassium Nitrate, Ammonium Nitrate, Sulphur, Sugar material paste, 12 pistols, 150 rounds of live ammunition, 1 country- made rocket launcher, 112 alarm clocks, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes, remote control car triggering switch, wireless digital doorbell for remote switch, steel containers, electric wires, 91 mobilephones, 134 SIM cards, 3 laptops, knife, sword, ISIS-related literature and a cash amount of Rs. 7.5 lacs approximately.

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