01 September 2019
New Delhi: With fake videos on Kashmir coming in droves from Pakistan amid Internet shutdown in the Valley, communication channels are open among separatists as well as local terrorists via several offline chat apps and highly-encrypted anonymous chat platform Tor, giving a hard time to security agencies and authorities in Jammu and Kashmir.
Popular among terrorists networks and anti-government protesters globally, Tor prevents people from tracing location or spying on users' browsing habits.
Available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android, TOR has been used to mobilise protesters without any risk of government cyber cells infiltrating into the network and crack down on the groups. It isolates websites you visit so third-party trackers and ads can't follow the users.
The Indian government has completely shut down the telephone and Internet network in the Valley, but there are various ways the people are trying numerous circumvention tools to avoid the web shutdown.
The worrying part is "off-the-grid" chat apps which are likely being used to communicate with one another via smartphones within a range of up to 100-200 metres -- by broadcasting encrypted data via Wi-Fi or bluetooth.
These apps work even without Internet connection or 2G, 3G or 4G network coverage, somewhat like the Walkie-Talkie app for iOS and Android.
It is like a peer-to-peer software without a central server like Facebook or WhatsApp and works like Mesh Network chat.
"Mesh Network works when two or more smartphones are within range of each other. The distance or coverage depends on the smartphone's signal strength, it varies from one model to another. Approximate distance is 100 feet between two smartphones," reports www.geckoandfly.com.
FireChat is another latest app that lets users communicate to nearby devices without Internet or mobile phone coverage.
The app also lets people use standard Internet connectivity to participate in a running conversation with FireChat users anywhere in the world.
The app uses Bluetooth to connect to nearby phones that also have the app installed. The company describes it as "crowdsourcing the connectivity of those around you."
The "Serval Mesh" software works by using phone's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to communicate with other phones.
It allows one to easily make private phone calls, send secure text messages and share files -- even when cellular networks fail or are unavailable.
Signal offline messenger is a Wi-Fi Direct based app. With this app, one can communicate without internet or local network in range of upto 100 metres.
"User can share audio, text, photo and video messages to nearby users over Wi-Fi Direct".
Vojer app delivers encrypted messages from a phone directly to another phone. With Vojer, user can get connected in mountains and places with intermittent or no coverage.
"Psiphon" is an open source web proxy that helps users skirt content-filtering systems.
Such apps and private gateways have been widely used across the globe.
Encrypted messaging app Telegram which has become very popular in India is sending out an update soon where protesters in Hong Kong will be able to hide their phone numbers from being seen by the authorities, thus communicating privately and without any threat of being discovered.
This leaves little space for the authorities to crack down on terrorists and separatist networks from communicating with one another in the valley, unless they fully utilise valley-based sources and get cracking.