NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has launched an investigation into a pseudonymous Facebook account, created by the Pakistani spy agency ISI, to remotely inject hidden malware into the computers, phones and other devices of staff at defence, personnel working in defense establishments and related departments. to steal sensitive national security information, people familiar with the development said.
The account, identified as fb.com/shaanti.patel.89737, which appears in the name of Shanti Patel, contaminated systems in order to gain unauthorized access to restricted computer resource data, they added.
The leak using Facebook and other apps was first noticed when Andhra Pradesh Police opened an investigation into the case based on source information in June 2020. It is one of incidents that prompted the military to issue a directive on July 9, 2020, asking all its officers and soldiers to remove 89 social media, micro-blogging and gaming apps, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, among others, from their devices.
The NIA has now resumed the investigation based on the Andhra Pradesh Police case to examine the domestic and international connections of the suspects and the national security data theft ramifications.
One of the officers quoted above said the Central Terrorism Investigative Agency would look into the matter under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Information Technology Act and the conspiracy to wage war against India because sensitive data may have been accessed by the suspects, who worked for the ISI. It is not yet clear what type of information was accessed using the malware installed on the devices of defense personnel.
Describing the modus operandi, an officer said “ISI hackers posing as the Facebook account ‘Shanti Patel’ befriended Indian defense personnel and then engaged with them through a private messaging on the Internet”.
“The suspects spread the malware by posting them as a folder with pretty pictures of women,” the officer said.
The investigation revealed that the malware was spreading from an unknown location in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Previously, the NIA had investigated an ISI-run naval spy ring, which used social media accounts to trick sailors into collecting sensitive and classified information regarding the locations/movements of naval vessels and submarines. Indian Navy in Eastern Naval Command at Vishakhapatnam and other defense establishments in 2018. -19. At least 15 people have been arrested in this case and an indictment was filed in June 2020.