Tracking Criminals Via Phone Calls

By Zakariyya Adaramola, 30 January 2012

analysis

Earlier this month, Nigeria security operatives apprehended one Kabiru Umar (aka Kabiru Sokoto), an alleged mastermind of 2011 Christmas Day bombing at Madalla, near Abuja.

Reports say he was tracked through his cell phone signals. But many Nigerians are wondering why the security agents have not been able to track down Abu Qaqa, the spokesman of Boko Haram, who frequently speaks to newsmen on the activities of the group using a cell phone.

A certain Abu Qaqa, the spokesman of the dreaded Boko Haram group which has been claiming responsibilities for many of the bombings in the country in recent times, does his Public Relations job mostly via phone.

The security agents have been unable to stop the killing spree since it began around 2009, and many Nigerians have lost hope in government protecting them.

Many Nigerians were further saddened two weeks ago when news broke that an alleged Boko Haram member, Kabiru Umar (aka Kabiru Sokoto), who allegedly masterminded the bombing of a church in Madalla, an Abuja suburb, had escaped.

The alleged terror suspect was said to have been tracked to the Borno State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja through his phone calls. The security agents, it was reported trailed Kabiru Sokoto through his phone signal with a technology in their possession.

Though many doubted it when it was said that Sokoto was traced via phone calls but there is no doubt on whether such technology exists or not. In 2010, the International Telecommunication Union – an agency of the United Nations focused on information and communication technologies – passed a resolution recognizing “that Lebanon’s telecommunication facilities have been and are still being subjected to piracy, interference and interruption, and sedition by Israel against Lebanon’s fixed and cellular telephone networks,” condemning the attacks as harmful to Lebanon’s national security. It means therefore that phone calls could be tapped into and conversation could be monitored.

Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, once told Al Jazeera that it is “quite feasible” to access a mobile operating centre remotely, thus able to install backdoors, install software to monitor or manipulate phone calls.

“We know that it is relatively simple to do real-time surveillance of text messaging and even block texts based upon key words as a third party,” he said.

“In 2009″, according to Al-Jazeerah, “Hezbollah and the Lebanese security services investigated three members from the resistance movement after they were suspected by the party of spying. The investigation revealed their phones had been installed with a software programme which allowed a second line to be linked to their phones.

“Intelligence officials discovered that when they switched off the tampered phones, two lines would disappear from the network, and when switched on again, two lines would reappear, even though only one SIM card was actually installed in the phone.

“The purpose of “twinning” is to allow third parties to remotely access the data records of the phone, trace its location and eavesdrop on conversations in the vicinity of the phone, regardless of whether the phone is switched on or off.

“The benefits would allow you to eavesdrop on the phone communications.”

“If you can also activate the hands-free, you can listen in on what is going on in the room, even when there is no phone call being placed on the phone, so it’s an open mike on your target the whole time”, Al-Jazeera reported in its website last year.

If this can be done, why is it difficult for our government to track Abu Qaqa with this type of technology if truly they arrested Sokoto via it? Abu Qaqa, they said, is not a spirit. He probably uses one of the country’s seven active telecoms operators networks to do his thing, and the lines he uses must have been registered, if not, he should have been blocked by now going by what the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) said when it started selling the idea of SIM registration to Nigerians.

NCC had said any subscribers who failed to register his/her line would not be able to make or receive calls with it. It is also said that any criminal who uses telephone to commit crime would be tracked and apprehended through the data supplied during registration.

So, why is it difficult to track down Abu Qaqa with the same technology the security agents used in tracking Kabiru Sokoto, now at large?

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