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Bengaluru: Two arrested for helping Pakistani spies obtain sensitive Army information by running a parallel telephone exchange

The entire racket was busted in an operation conducted by the Military Intelligence (MI) wing of the Army's Southern Command after they intercepted a call from a Pakistani spy to an Army installation in eastern India a few weeks back.

The Military Intelligence (MI) and the Anti-Terror Cell of Bengaluru Police have arrested two men Ibrahim Pullatti Bin Mohammed Kutty (36) hailing from Malappuram in Kerala and Gautham B Vishwanatha (27) from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu for running an illegal phone exchange that helped Pakistan spies to extract information related to the Indian Army. 

The two were nabbed for converting international calls to local ones, not only causing a huge revenue loss but also posing a grave threat to national security. 

The entire racket was busted in an operation conducted by the Military Intelligence (MI) wing of the Army’s Southern Command after they intercepted a call from a Pakistani spy to an Army installation in eastern India a few weeks back. This led to the unraveling of an illegal telephone exchange in Bengaluru, hinting at similar systems being operational in other parts of the country.

Spying on Indian Army

A spy from Pakistan was enquiring general details while posing as a senior officer during the intercepted call.

On further investigation, the Movement Control Office (MCO), as well as the Principal Comptroller of Defence Account (PCDA), reported receiving similar calls seeking details from them.

Further probe into the matter revealed that the Pakistan-based intelligence operatives exploited such illegal exchanges to route their calls to connect with Indian citizens and obtain information of military installations.

The officials also informed that the Pakistani intelligence operatives have invested in illegal call exchanges that switch Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls to normal Indian mobile calls. 

The modus operandi

During the raid, the security agencies seized thirty-two SIM box devices, which can use 960 SIM cards at a time. 

The accused Ibrahim and Gautham had placed the 32 devices in six areas of the city to carry out their illegal activities.

Despite the Indian Army issuing several advisories and drafting SOPs to prevent leaks through such means, a lot of civilian staff continue to fall prey to the scam, as per reports. 

Operating parallel telephone exchange

The scamsters make use of SIM boxes to run a parallel telephone exchange. As per the officials, a hardware-based device also known as SIM bank is used in the telecom sector for termination of direct Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) communication.

In order to avoid getting blocked by service providers or to go undetected by government agencies, an operator uses a technology called ‘migration’ of the SIM cards. Through this the registration of the SIM cards jumps on different GSM modules with a specific frequency, leading to multiple GSM gateways located throughout a city or a town. This system creates an illusion of a real user’s movement by showing the call being conducted from different gateways.

The officials also informed that the ‘adversary nation’ has been caught often using these illegal SIM boxes to obtain sensitive information by planting or penetrating their agents into the country.  

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