More than 82,000 phone calls are made from the US to a swanky office in Noida’s IT hub every day. Uttar Pradesh’s elite cyber crime team is foxed-without a clue about the callers, and the purpose of the calls.
From the Noida den-where cops on Wednesday found as many as 32 landline phones and no human presence-these calls get diverted across various states in India using a software to stall tracking. Officials have sealed the place, which houses a company registered as Business Solutions, and have plans to seek help from US authorities to get information on locations and callers there.
Not ruling out the possibility of “threats to national security”, UP’s special task force (STF) is working overtime, trying to crack the web of ‘mystery calls’, which the department of telecom says are also causing a loss of around Rs 20 crore a month to the exchequer
“This looks like a serious security threat. The volume of calls is astounding. We want to know the purpose of these calls. We’re taking this with utmost seriousness,” Rajkumar Mishra, Deputy Superintendent of the Police in the STF, told MAIL TODAY. STF sources also said that these services can be used by terrorists, international criminals or hawala operators.
The fake telephone exchange had been operational for three months. It received calls made from Internet or voice over internet protocol (VOIP) from the US and routed them to users across Indian cities – this page has all the information. And Noida is not the only place from where this happened. A similar raid was carried out in Bangalore around the same time from where a server and telephone lines were seized. Cops say both properties are owned by the same person, who is a resident of Ghaziabad and is now absconding.
“We’re also on the lookout for his associates in India and abroad,” Mishra said.
Police said all the calls were made from the US, and through a server set up there they were transferred to Noida. There was an automated server in Noida’s Sector 63 office of Business Solutions which was forwarding these calls to end users in India through 32 PRI (Primary Rate Interface) lines connected with it.
During the investigation it was found that a call spoofing software was also linked with the server which displayed wrong number on the receiver’s phone.
“The gang had developed a software as it had linked Internet calls (VOIP) generating from the US and transferring these calls through traditional calling devices like mobile phones and landlines. The gang is extremely tech-savvy as they spoofed these calls so that the end user never comes to know the origin of the phone call. When we checked the incoming numbers we found them to be fake,” Mishra explained.
STF claims that these callers are difficult to track as they were in violation of DoT guidelines and are using Internet telephony along with traditional calling tool. It was only when TERM (Telecom enforcement and Regulation Monitoring cell) of DoT sensed foul play and started data analytic and subsequently tipped off STF, the STF conducted the raid and found an automated server working which was being used by Business Solutions. The owner of the company, who is identified as Amit Kumar Jain, is at large but cops have found another server in Bangalore which was transferring similar calls from the US.
Police is puzzled about the profile of callers who used this service. With this technology, the unknown gang was offering calls as low as Rs 2-5 per minute, which normally cost Rs 20.
Police have also asked DoT to take help of US authorities in giving more details about the calls being generated from there. “Callers can be only identified with the help of logs from US. We have no logs or details of the callers. Till the time we get details of callers we cannot ascertain the cause of these calls,” a senior police officer said.
A question that is niggling security agencies is when there is free or cheap internet calling software available on smart phones, why were callers using such services? “We are not certain why this service was used as there are cheaper options available. We can only guess that Internet speed is not that fast in India so there is problem of quality and delay time. And hence, the caller must be using this option. Another reason could be that some end user in India may not have smart phones to receive Internet calls,” the senior officer said.