Wifi network vulnerability persists

Wi-fi connections are a great way to browse the web wirelessly and on different computers, but left unsecured, as Mumbai police and a well-known DJ discovered again, they can be open invitations to terrorists or for that matter anybody other than you to hack your network and use it for their chosen purpose.

This simple truth once again dawned upon the detectives and the citizens when they discovered that within 30 minutes of the Varanasi terror bombing on November 7, an email claiming responsibility for the attack was sent from Navi Mumbai by terrorists, hacking an unsecured wi-fi network of the DJ Nikhil Talreja.

It was not the first instance of ultras hacking wi-fi network. A terror email sent minutes after the Delhi bombing incident before the start of the Commonwealth Games was also traced to Mumbai.

In the past too, email messages claiming responsibility for three major terror attacks across the country were traced to Mumbai or Navi Mumbai. The latest incident has added to the headache of Mumbai police and the Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), which are already grappling with other terror cases like 26/11 and Pune German Bakery blast. One question bothers them and citizens - Why Mumbai? The reason is the ease and convenience of introducing newer technologies in Mumbai-Pune belt which has seen a massive spread of wi-fi networks. But with new technology comes vulnerability.

Perception not changed

Past instances of terrorists hacking into wi-fi networks have not really changed the users’ perception about the security of their networks and many of these users don’t even bother to place any level of security.

These security levels, such as the basic WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol), which is a password-protected method to log onto your network, or the WPA/2 or even higher levels are available, and anyone with very little expertise can install these
securities to avoid hacking of their networks. But as the Mumbai police found, the terrorists zeroed in on an unsecured wi-fi internet connection of the DJ, who did not bother to install even the basic security level, to hack and send their terror email to media houses.

Carelessness

Interestingly, Nikhil and his brother Akhil, who is also a DJ, knew about the hacking of wi-fi network of an American national Kenneth Heywood in Navi Mumbai which was used to send the terror email minutes after Ahmedabad blasts in 2008. But they never imagined that the same thing might happen to their Airtel network as well. It was
their carelessness that the terrorists exploited.

The detectives sifted through the CCTV footage available with commercial establishments in the vicinity of DJ’s residence in sector 17 of Vashi, but could not locate anything significant. The Gmail ID used for sending the terror email was accessed rarely, and did not disclose much. The terror outfit Indian Mujahideen has been using this method for sending terror email, perhaps as diversionary tactics.

The beginning of the year also saw a major terror attack in Pune, on the eve of Valentine’s Day. A favourite joint of foreigners near Osho ashram, German Bakery, was the target of terrorists, in which 17 persons were killed. Among them were a group of
five close friends, who had assembled there to celebrate as one of them had
secured a job. Four foreign nationals too were killed.

Wreak mayhem

Investigators linked the attack to ‘Karachi Project’, a nefarious plan of Pakistani terror outfit LeT using the Indian Mujahideen (IM), to wreak mayhem across India’s second rung cities like Pune.

The investigators identified Yasin Bhatkal, believed to be a relative of IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal, as one of the main conspirators of the blast. In September 2010, the ATS arrested Mirza Himayat Baig (29) for his involvement in the attack, as well as his aide Shaikh Lalbaba Mohammed Hussain alias Bilal (27), both believed to be members of LeT.
A charge-sheet was filed against them on December 4 in a Pune court. The details of the charge-sheet have not been revealed as six more accused are still absconding and investigation is in progress.

Another highlight of the year was the conviction of Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Kasab for killing 166 people during the 26/11 terror strikes and imposition of the death penalty on him. The confirmation of the death penalty and Kasab’s appeal against his conviction are being heard in the Bombay High Court, which will pronounce its verdict next year.

The sneaking of four LeT terrorists in Mumbai on the eve of Christmas has put Mumbai on high alert as the year is drawing to a close, once again reminding its citizens that they cannot drop their vigil in the foreseeable future. That is the only way to prevent a repeat of 26/11 or Pune blast, or for that matter, the hacking of the wi-fi networks for terror use.

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