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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Honeytrapping personnel working at high security defence installations in order to obtain sensitive information has become a policy of Pakistani spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Though the identity of the female operative who allegedly honeytrapped the five DRDO employees in Balasore’s Chandipur is still unclear, it is nevertheless, a layman's guess to know the agency behind this espionage syndicate.

On top of that, the advent of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Virtual Private Numbers (VPN) which enables calling without disclosing the identity and location of the caller, has made spying a piece of cake for foreign operatives and enemies of India.

The arrests made by the odisha Crime Branch in the DRDO intelligence leak case in Balasore has raised many questions including the phone number using which the mysterious female handler managed to entrap the employees at the defence establishment who are now under arrest.

As per the Crime Branch revelations, the said phone number was a virtual number from the United Kingdom which was rerouted through several IP addresses to conceal its originating location.

Shedding light on the virtual numbers, particularly those from UK, cyber expert, Prashant Sahoo said, “The ISI generally uses virtual phone numbers of United Kingdom (UK) to hide their actual identity and location. It is relatively easy to obtain virtual numbers from UK through several apps available in app stores. The numbers can be used for Whatsapp, enabling them in the process to make VoIP calls to their targets as well.”

“All the spies in the world use these kind of virtual numbers to hide their identity. While it is easy to reach the service provider from where the number has been obtained, it is nearly impossible to trace the person who used the number to trap unsuspecting men/women. I have never seen any accused going behind bars,” added Sahoo.

Colonel Purnachandra Pattnaik, a defence expert, termed espionage as 'cancer'. It will keep spreading untill we kill the malignant cells with radiation or other means. Without strict guidance and regulation, it is a child’s play for the ISI to collect sensitive information from defence related organisations. DRDO should have similar set of instructions and SoP like the Army under which the employees are not allowed to divulge information on their movement even with their family members.

“And as far as the phone numbers and its origin is concerned, it is irrelevant. With the current technological advancements, it is nearly impossible to locate and identify the handler sitting in a foreign country. It is ISI’s policy to bleed India. They will keep targetting our defence installations relentlessly. We have to keep ourselves immune to their attacks,” said Pattnaik.

The sensational revelation about the tech-aided entrapment was made by the Crime Branch before the court after the remand of the accused ended on Monday. However, sources said that the CB is all set to apply for extension of remand duration to gather some more information from them.

It is pertinent to mention here that the investigators have learnt that the elusive female operative in the spy ring, who is said to have honey trapped five employees of the DRDO for obtaining crucial intelligence about the high security defence installation, had managed to hack the mobile phone of one of the arrested accused for a protracted eight month period.

As per the disclosures made by the Crime Branch, which is investigating the case, the mysterious female operative, suspected to be a Pakistani spy, had hacked the mobile phone of one of the five accused for eight months and kept tab on his activities. She managed to steal vital information about the organization in the process, Crime Branch sources said on Monday.

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