New Delhi: The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police has busted a “module” that has allegedly been taking online IT certification exams on behalf of students and professionals aiming to boost their career prospects in IT companies. So far, the police have arrested three people in connection with the money-for-marks scheme.
According to the police, the masterminds of the high-tech cheating racket are a father-and-son duo, Rajesh Kumar Shah and Deep Shah, who run an IT coaching institute in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The two allegedly hired a Delhi-based technical expert, Aklakh Alam, to take the exams remotely for clients.
“We received intel that several services are available on the dark web, in which hackers claim they can get the desired score by hacking into the device used by the examinee,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) K.P.S. Malhotra told ThePrint. Another police source said that the accused charged around Rs 9,000-10,000, and gave exams for about 200 clients.
The trio apparently specialised in cracking various online tech certification exams. Getting a high score in these competitive exams can help IT aspirants get better placements, DCP Malhotra told ThePrint.
“Various international certifications are prerequisites to upgrade technical skills. These certifications are being provided by a number of reputed organisations — there are certifications from Cisco, CompTIA, EC-Council… these play a crucial role in the selection and pay grade of a candidate in the IT sector as well in other industries,” the officer said. He added that high scores in these competitive exams can make a big difference to the career progress of IT aspirants.
“These certifications are taken up worldwide, by huge IT companies like Microsoft, Google etc and higher packages are given to the aspirants,” another police source said.
“They have been running this scam since the Covid-19 outbreak, as all examinations shifted to an online mode. The latest intel we received was [about the] Pearson IT certification,” the source added.
Based on intelligence gathered, a Delhi Police team arranged for a decoy to pose as an aspirant who was willing to pay to get high scores in the CompTIA A+ Certification (Core 1) examination.
According to the police, the decoy contacted the hackers using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication and then transferred the fee to the account number specified to him. After this, the hacker asked the candidate to download a software called Iperius Remote.
“Through the software, [the hacker] gained control of the participant’s laptop and attempted the exam on 25 October. The decoy candidate passed the exam with a score of 736. Accordingly, a case was registered,” DCP Malhotra said.
The police first traced Deep Shah based on a technical analysis of the mobile number, bank account and internet IP address.
The modus operandi
According to the police, Deep and his father Rajesh gave potential clients a “100 per cent guarantee” of passing online certification exams. “Through their training centre they approached applicants who didn’t have the required knowledge and skills and promised them the desired score. They also contacted candidates through WhatsApp and Telegram,” the DCP said. He added that for actually attempting these exams, the father-son pair hired Alam who “hacked sites for various exams — WS (Amazon Web Services), Azure, CompTIA A+, PMP, CISM, CEH (Cyber Ethical Hacking), etc by getting remote access through apps”.
Alam, police said, holds top-level IT certifications in networking and has over 12 years of experience working as an A-grade network implementation and design engineer.
The police say that the first step of the hackers’ was to ask the candidates to download remote access software like Ultraviewer, Anydesk, or Iperius Remote. The next step was to install software into the client system that would escape detection by the security software of the exam-conducting company. Further, they used software that would make it difficult for examiners to detect anomalies in movements or pupil movements. Once all this was in place, IT expert Alam would attempt the exam.
“These competitive examinations are recognised worldwide. The exams which were earlier organised offline, are now being conducted online through various software. For instance, Cisco offers certifications for beginners, associates, experts in technology. All of these exams require knowledge and a particular skillset, such as programming, to score,” the police source said.