Opinion

LeT has developed an untraceable mobile. Really?

In an exclusive Times Of India has run a story that “Al Muhammadia Students (AMS) has developed a mobile handset meant exclusively for communication by LeT members with each other. After entering a particular chip, the handset automatically connects with the nearest mobile tower, irrespective of the telecom service provider, and calls made using this handset cannot be traced by Indian intelligence agencies”.
The only problem – this is based on a statement by a captured terrorist and has not been ratified by technology experts.

Lets first understand it can’t be. Its not a hack into GSM networks. For any SIM to connect to a service provider, it must be verified in the Home location register – HLR (its own SIM) or Visitor Location Register (VLR) – in case of Roaming. Its not possible to have a communication without registry into HLR or VLR as it will have cascading implications and flags raised not only by the technical guys but also by the Finance and accounts of the concerned. Also such a hack world compromise the very basis of all GSM network and if done will not be contained to a non-sophisticated organisations like LeT. This is a Hollywood stuff in league of US’s NSA.
What it can be is an International pre paid SIM. Purchased in one country they have an uncanny ability to be on international roaming in almost all coverage areas of India. The ownership of such a mobile network will be difficult to trace, however the calls, even then will be routed through normal channels. Technically such a phone will be on VLR of one or another Indian telecom service provider.
What LeT could have further did will be to instruct its cadre to use a VOIP app on such an international SIM card. It’s another matter that in such a roaming data usage will be insanely costly.

Depending on the app used, the channels could be end-to-end encrypted. However, if this used Telecom Providers can be easily asked to block VLR data packets in valley and the problem is resolved. Such connection attempts could easily be filtered out, traced and the LeT cadres triangulated.
At any rate the communication will not be auto terminated if intercepted. If encryption is strong, it will take too long for agencies to decrypt it. Most likely such an interception will only be filtered on profiling the users and coupled with Human Intelligence and background chatter. But then that’s the most basic way in which technical intelligence become usable.
Except for mythological glorification of LeT the TOI article is nothing more than an average piece of writing.

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