The fight against app-based crypto crimes, a new challenge for the police

Police officials said that with advances in information technology, crimes using the internet have increased significantly in the country, as well as in other parts of the world.

01 April 2022, 14:00

Last modification: 01 April 2022, 14:03

Infographic: TBS

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Infographic: TBS

  • End-to-end encryption applications ensure privacy of users’ shared data
  • The apps also prevent access by all third parties, including Google
  • WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Silent Phone, Signal, Threema are widely used apps in the world
  • Police are struggling to handle dozens of cases through the use of encrypted apps by criminals

A large band of thieves with a national network have been committing robberies in different districts, especially the homes of Bangladeshi migrant workers, for at least 10 years. Many involved in racketeering are also convicted in different cases and are on the run.

The police struggled for a long time to catch the ring but repeatedly failed; they couldn’t even find a way to track down the gang members. However, they were able to arrest one of them a few days ago.

The law enforcement agency later identified that the gang used encrypted apps such as Whatsapp and Telegram, which provide additional privacy and end-to-end encryption to users, for their internal communication. The gang didn’t even use valid phone numbers or other communication tools – which the police usually look for or monitor to find criminals.

Like the gang, many criminals now use such apps to communicate and avoid all popular ways to evade the police. At the same time, the use of such apps by offenders is increasing alarmingly day by day.

On September 6 last year, the police counter-terrorism unit arrested an active member of the Ansarullah Bangla team, a banned militant organization, who was discovered using an encrypted application to extend the network of the team. Another activist planning an attack on the Chattogram book fair was arrested last month in possession of such an app.

In addition, many are committing cybercrimes and laundering money using end-to-end encrypted apps, police say. With black webs or counterfeits, all manage fake or foreign phone numbers to open their accounts on the applications. Thus, their true identity also remains hidden on app platforms.

“Global encrypted app companies serve their subscribers with the guarantee of maintaining strict confidentiality. But criminals are abusing this feature,” said Md Kamruzzaman, Deputy Inspector General and Spokesperson of Bangladesh Police.

“Naturally, companies cannot figure out who is misusing the service to commit crimes. If we had cooperative relationships with companies, we might seek information about particular users,” he told The Business Standard.

Not only security officials in Bangladesh, but also those around the world have been faced with the challenge – to fight against crimes based on encryption apps, Kamaruzzaman said, adding that they were now trying to establish communication with global technology companies.

Several other senior police officials, seeking anonymity, told TBS that they are currently struggling to handle dozens of cases mostly related to militant activity, drug trafficking and cyber crimes, thanks to the use of encrypted applications.

Also, criminals are constantly switching between apps for their communication, which is another challenge, they added.

End-to-end encryption applications generally prevent access by all third parties, including Google, to texts, files, voices or other documents shared between users. The software converts the data into scrambled text which can only be decoded with secret keys – created on the sending and receiving devices. There is almost no possibility of data leakage.

WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Silent Phone, Signal, Threema are widely used encrypted apps around the world.

Police officials said that with advances in information technology, crimes using the internet have increased significantly in the country, as well as in other parts of the world. During this time, the police also built up their capacity, although they were slow to deal with the problem.

Now, several social media sites, including Facebook, are cooperating with Bangladeshi law enforcement and in some cases the government has managed to prevent rumors from spreading in the virtual world, they added.

However, the police have yet to find a response from the encrypted application service providers. As a result, they find it difficult to find criminals using the apps.

Meanwhile, the government has drafted a regulatory framework to govern the operations of digital platforms in the country, titled “Regulation of Digital Platforms, Social Media and OTT”, which proposes to mandate the appointment of local agents of internet platforms. in the country.

In addition, they will need to have in-person contact addresses and a system for receiving complaints and resolving complaints.

However, human rights activists are critical of the settlement, fearing it will be abused by harassing people and suppressing people’s voices.

About Donald J. Beadle

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