Security Researchers: Indian Police Agencies Digitally Planted Evidence To Frame Activists

from the tip-of-the-law-enforcement-fuckery-iceberg dept

Law enforcement agencies have access to very powerful digital tools. Thanks to companies with eyes on market expansion but very little consideration of moral or ethical issues, cops have the power to completely compromise phones, turning them into unwitting informants… or worse.

This blockbuster report — written by Andy Greenberg for Wired and based on research performed by Citizen Lab and SentinelOne — shows cops can use powerful malware to create the probable cause they need to start arresting people. The fix is in.

More than a year ago, forensic analysts revealed that unidentified hackers fabricated evidence on the computers of at least two activists arrested in Pune, India, in 2018, both of whom have languished in jail and, along with 13 others, face terrorism charges. Researchers at security firm SentinelOne and nonprofits Citizen Lab and Amnesty International have since linked that evidence fabrication to a broader hacking operation that targeted hundreds of individuals over nearly a decade, using phishing emails to infect targeted computers with spyware, as well as smartphone hacking tools sold by the Israeli hacking contractor NSO Group. But only now have SentinelOne’s researchers revealed ties between the hackers and a government entity: none other than the very same Indian police agency in the city of Pune that arrested multiple activists based on the fabricated evidence.

I get it. Who doesn’t like an easy day at work? Planting evidence makes arrests easy. Cops do it all the time. The difference here is the cops don’t have to carry around contraband on their persons or in their vehicles and wait for a situation to present itself.

Using powerful malware, officers can plant evidence whenever it’s most convenient for them and follow up with an arrest and device seizure that allows them access to the evidence they planted. And it’s not just for phones. The report notes that one activist arrested as the apparent result of planted evidence had his laptop compromised by police malware, allowing the Pune police to add 32 incriminating files to his hard drive.

It took researchers several months to confirm attribution. The link to the police department came via a recovery email address and phone number attached to compromised email accounts. That information was traced back to a police official in Pune who somehow thought it was wise to include his full name in the bogus recovery accounts.

That malware deployment has turned from passive to offensive shouldn’t come as a surprise. Very few malware developers care how their products are used and tend to make changes only when prompted by sanctions or months of negative press.

And it definitely shouldn’t come as a surprise that an element of the Indian government is abusing malware to plant evidence to shut down dissent. That’s the Indian government’s main goal at this point: to force the nation’s 1.2 billion residents into subservience by any means necessary. Whether it’s a law that abuses the notion of national security to turn residents into billions of data points or the government openly targeting critics via social media services (and threatening those services with fines and imprisonment when they fail to play along), the Indian government continues to expand the size of its thumb and, with any luck, will have an entire nation under it in the near future.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Security Researchers: Indian Police Agencies Digitally Planted Evidence To Frame Activists”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
andrew_duane (profile) says:

Substitute us for them

Sadly, there’s basically not one fact in this article that wouldn’t be completely believable about the United States. We fabricate or plant physical evidence and hide exculpatory stuff all the time, that’s just another day at work for many LEOs.

It’s not remotely a leap to consider actively planting digital evidence, which can be even harder to refute. And given that the device is in the hands of the police, it would be easy for them to make sure no traces of the tampering remained before defense could get the device examined by an outside forensics expert.

OGquaker says:

collateral damage

Planting body parts can be useful.
J.D. Tippit always looked like JFK to his fellow cops

Oswald’s girlfriend was interviewed on TV with some story about the brutal death/murder of a fellow virus researcher at Tulane. My X-aunt-in-law, secretary to Roy Ash (Litton Bionetics) went off like a roman candle when i brought it up. She screamed that no contract was ever signed with the Fed without prostitutes involved.

What’s real doesn’t matter, the ship of State must remain on course. Makeup Effects Labs, (where i worked in the 1980’s) was building latex face appliances for Hollywood films & our Government.

Stiff upper lip, suck it in, bleed for your King you porkbellies: they know where you are within ten feet

That One Guy (profile) says:

'We said they were guilty and that's the end of it.'

It’s a matter of saving time really. I mean when you’re the government you’re definitionally never wrong so if you say someone is guilty then clearly they must be guilty, and at that point it would just be such a hassle to find some incriminating evidence that the guilty party created themselves so the government is just avoiding all that bother by creating it themselves.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...