Thursday, 11 August, 2022
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This Delhi Police ‘Batmobile’ is out to catch the fake news bad guys

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The force now has at its disposal a hi-tech van equipped with technology that allows them to ‘crack’ phones in minutes.

New Delhi: It has a rather banal name, but Delhi Police have a set of wheels every bit as cool as the Batmobile, and they are using it to catch culprits unleashing mayhem from the anonymous annals of cyberspace.

The cyber forensic van is deceptive in appearance, hard to distinguish from thousands of others on the roads. But step inside, and you might as well have arrived in a superhero’s universe: One side is lined with seats, while the other hosts all manner of sophisticated devices and gadgets.

Also read: Meet the Delhi Police officer who never missed a single hearing in ‘Nirbhaya’ case

There are gadgets to analyse data from mobile phones, sim cards, laptops and even drones. Also at hand is software crucial to the cyber-crime fighter, allowing investigators to clone data and trace hacks as the van shuttles between the stations that require its assistance.

The software includes a write-blocker, which permits read-only access to data-storage devices; an FTK (Forensic Toolkit) imager that helps save an image of a hard disk; and Solo 4, to clone data. The van is also equipped with a ‘phone-cracking’ device from the Israeli company Cellebrite, a favourite of investigation agencies like the FBI to get a complete rundown on a suspect’s phone activity.

Inspector Monica Kaushal, who has been working with the cyber lab of Delhi Police for nine years, explained how an investigation generally works.

“The Solo 4 device installed in the cyber van helps us clone the memory of devices seized from a suspect. Then we use the Cellebrite device to analyse this memory,” she said.

“We never directly start working on a seized device. With the help of the van, we first create an image of the device memory, so that its hash value or original evidence remains intact,” she added.

The van was launched on 5 July for the sole purpose of quick, on-the-spot investigation. The findings of its team are subsequently sent to the investigation officer in question.

The team said having such advanced technology at hand was extremely useful and saved a lot of time, explaining how they were earlier reliant on foreign help for similar analyses. Most importantly, they said they could now quickly identify where a rumour originated and apprehend the perpetrator.

“Previously, reports on misinformation or fake news were communicated to us by foreign service-providers. The process was time-consuming. Now it takes us minutes to extract information and confirm whether a rumour was started from a particular device,” said Vikas Gehlot, an inspector at Delhi Police Cyber Crime cell.

Also read: India unequipped to deal with cyber crime, says Meghalaya editor Patricia Mary Mukhim

“Recently, we used this van for four to five cases, and the results were good,” he added, detailing the way they had foiled a hack attack.

“There were reports of hacking in some places. So we targeted specific servers. We went there and seized their laptops. All the data was recovered,” he said.

The technology at their disposal, the team claimed, could blaze through the famed secrecy of virtual currencies like Bitcoin to identify anyone using them to commit fraud.

Discussing how they solved one such recent case involving Bitcoin, Gehlot said, “There is a ‘key’ for online transactions through Bitcoins. An employee working with a company that deals in Bitcoins was involved in a fraud. He made the ‘key’ public and withdrew all the money. Only with the help of the van were we able to find the culprit. Now he is behind bars.”

At present the Delhi Police has only one cyber forensic van, but plans are afoot to get more.

“We are planning to get more of these cyber vans in a few months. They are really proving to be of great use,” said deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi) Madhur Verma.

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