ISIS luring desi hackers $10,000 to hack into government websites and steal sensitive data

It has been reported that ISIS is willing to pay Indian hackers thousands of dollars to hack into government websites and gain access to sensitive documents. The hackers are being offered lucrative deals to create a database of potential Indian candidates from social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. A hacker would be paid in excess of $10,000 for every ‘job’ that they do. Experts say that this is by far the most tempting offer from the hacking community in India.

“There are various underground communities online where hackers interact regularly. Our investigation reveals that for the past six months, lucrative offers for stealing government data came pouring in and hackers were offered a huge sum. Such amount has never been offered to any Indian hacker before. We found that the offers were being made to spread ISIS reach in the country,” said Kislay Choudhary, a cyber crime expert working with several security agencies. Kislay also added that stealing a government secured data is a part of ISIS’s intelligence gathering exercise and helps in formulating their India strategy.

To proliferate ISIS’ radical ideology and indoctrinate the youth worldwide, they are using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Experts believe that over 30,000 youth have reportedly been in contact with the extremist organisation in India till now, of which many of the hackers ironically might have already accepted the offer.

Experts say that the recruited hackers are communicating through online services such as Skype, Silent Circle, Telegram, and WhatsApp with their Syrian handlers.

Increasing threat

The past few months have seen a tremendous increase in the active profiles on social media that are being used to spread malice against India. Many of the users of these channels are based out of various parts of south India, Kashmir, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Indian handlers are now spreading their hate messages in a localised manner by communicating with their followers in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Urdu and other vernacular languages on cyberspace. Recently, Bangla too has been used to target vulnerable youths in Bangladesh and India to spread ISIS’ hate propaganda.

Twelve suspects from across the country have been recently arrested by the security agencies for their alleged links with the active members of ISIS in Syria. They were planning out an attack ahead of Republic Day. According to the sources, the alleged supporters were arrested after tracking thousands of IP addresses and communication used by ISIS in Syria and Iraq with their handlers in India.

A senior officer of a central security agency said, “The work of Indian handlers is to identify people who tweet or share pro- ISIS and anti-West posts. Such users are potential ISIS sympathisers. Such people are contacted by ISIS members on social media and engaged in religious conversations. After assessing their mindset, pro-ISIS content and videos are shared. If they show interest, they are enrolled into the terror outfit.”

These ISIS handlers are also focusing on the local communal clashes and other issues minorities face in the country to instigate the youth on several platforms of social media.

When social media is split wide open on communal lines during riots, ISIS members have managed to reach out to several thousand people online even in such situations.

Techies involved by ISIS are carefully planning to promote jihadi content on social media, said experts.

“They spread their message with popular keywords and hashtags to reach a wider audience,” a security official said.

Counter action

Security agencies have reportedly started counter-measures and have taken down ISIS-related content on web. As many as 94 websites that were connected with the ISIS have been blocked claims the Maharashtra ATS.

While some websites were banned, the government is also trying to ensure no hate content is put up on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The Indian government is ready to create a 24/7 war room to keep a tab on social media. In December 2015, the government had set up a committee to scrutinize the probability of a multiagency 24×7 social media analysis centre.

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