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Illegal Telecom Exchanges Busted in Latur, ISI Hand Suspected

Pakistan intelligence agency ISI is attempting to infiltrate the Indian telecom network and use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based exchanges in India to gather sensitive military information.

Pranay Upadhyay | CNN-News18

Updated:June 17, 2017, 11:48 PM IST
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Illegal Telecom Exchanges Busted in Latur, ISI Hand Suspected
(Image for representational purpose only. Reuters)
Mumbai: Pakistan intelligence agency ISI is attempting to infiltrate the Indian telecom network and use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based exchanges in India to gather sensitive military information.

A joint team of Maharashtra ATS and Telecom Department unearthed two such illegal exchanges operating from Latur district in Friday raids.

This is the fourth such raid on illegal telecom exchanges since January. Similar exchanges were found running in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhopal which were being used by the ISI to mask calls. Sources said these exchanges can also be easily used by terror handlers.

According to sources, police received intelligence inputs from a J&K-based military intelligence unit. The Maharashtra ATS, Latur Police and officers from the Department of Telecommunications (Prosecution Branch) conducted raids at a house in Prakashnagar to discover an illegal telecommunication junction. At least 96 SIM cards, one computer, a CPU and three machines for call transforming (illegal international gateways) were recovered. The illegal exchange was being operated for more than six months by a 33-year-old man.

ALSO READ | How ISI-run Call Routing Racket Cost India Over Rs 30,000 Cr

Based on the information gathered there, the joint team raided a shop in Valandi village (70 km from the first raid) and recovered two illegal international gateways, 14 SIM cards and other miscellaneous electronic material costing about Rs 1,20,000.

The second exchange was unearthed in a rented house in Janwal in the district. A 27-year-old man was busted for running a fake telecommunication exchange. At least 64 SIM cards, one laptop, two unauthorised international gateway machines and other material worth Rs 1,50,000 were recovered.

Overall, equipment worth Rs 4,60,000 were seized in the two busts. Maharashtra Police have registered a case. A preliminary verification by telecom officials found that these exchanges caused a loss of Rs 15 crore to the exchequer.

The accused persons were running the illegal telephone exchanges wherein international VoIP calls were routed through local mobile numbers. Reliable inputs suggest that this type of illegal VoIP exchanges were used by ISI to acquire sensitive military information.

ALSO READ | This Pakistan Spy Ring Exclusively Recruits Hindu Boys With Saffron Links

"SIM boxes are used to route VoIP calls made by a person in a foreign location. This way, an Indian number flashes on the receiver's phone. This also confuses security agencies tracking suspicious calls. Though the quality of calls goes down, techniques like call spoofing and SIM banks mask the caller's identity," said an investigator.

Earlier in April 2017, Telangana Police unearthed similar exchange in Hyderabad. More than 30 SIM boxes and more than 650 SIM cards were recovered and four people were arrested.

The racket of SIM-box based illegal exchange was unearthed in India after the arrest of a Delhi-based software engineer and his nine associates in January. The UP ATS and a military intelligence unit had stumbled upon the syndicate in Delhi and UP while probing a series of espionage calls being made to Army officers.

The mastermind, Gulshan Sain, was a native of Sikar in Rajasthan. He worked as the "technical head" of a leading engineering coaching institute branch in Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh.

A report by communications fraud control association (CFCA) released in 2013 mentions that SIM box fraud is among the top five emerging threats to the telecom industry causing a loss of over $3 billion per year.
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