A couple of days ago, 25-year-old Shubham Singh, known as ‘shubhamcybercop‘ on Instagram, received messages from a few users requesting him to track the activities of a group named ‘Bois Locker Room’ and to help identify its members.
Leaked screenshots of messages on the group, which went viral this week, show how the chat was used by several boys from prominent Delhi schools to exchanged vulgar and derogatory texts about underage schoolmates. The talk included mention of rape, and some photos of young girls were even morphed.
“As soon as I got the message, I immediately went to check the group members’ profiles on Instagram, which they had deactivated by now. Within the span of a few hours, I was able to locate Facebook accounts, email addresses and phone numbers of over nine teenagers through their user ids on Instagram, all of them from schools in and around Delhi,” he said.
Singh says he has forwarded all the details to an IPS officer in Delhi but hasn’t received a response as yet. “Since I am not a victim, I can’t force the police to take action. My job is to only send them the information, which I did,” he said.
Singh has been working as a cyber cell assistant with the Mumbai Police for the past five years and runs a portal called Cyber World Academy to provide speedy solutions to cyber crimes – free of cost. He also conducts training sessions for police officers in Mumbai and many of them, he says, have benefited from his tutorials.
Since the Mumbai police is busy at this time dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, he has added a helpline number on his website for those facing cyber-related problems during the lockdown.
Internet traps, he says, are very easy to fall into and hence, everyone should have a basic idea about what is right and what isn’t.
Like the case above, he says he often gets messages from individuals and groups, asking him to identify fraudsters who leak bank details and those who morph and share nude pictures of women on social media sites. The police, too, regularly seek tech-related advice and involve him in cases related to unethical activities on internet, he says..
Four years ago, Singh logged into his Facebook account to find it hacked. He immediately started searching for tutorials on YouTube to get out of the situation and managed to log back in.
The incident, he says, inspired him to learn ethical hacking.
After school, he did a specialised course in ethical hacking and web-development from IIT Bombay- Powai and later did his bachelors in computer application from a college in Pune. In the meantime, he also started coaching students at Aggarwal Institute of Technology, Vikhroli.
“While I was teaching at Vikhroli college, the Mumbai police contacted me to help them with cyber security issues. For the past couple of years, I have been working with the police and have helped them solve complex cyber crimes. We are currently working on fraudulent activities around the PM-CARES fund and backdoor sale of liquor during lockdown,” he said.
‘Awareness is necessary’
“Sometimes people don’t even know what counts as a crime and what doesn’t and end up creating trouble for themselves. Hence, it’s important to learn the repercussions of cyber crimes as well as easy methods to get out of the traps,” he says. “Awareness is necessary.”
At the same time, he ensures that those who learn hacking from him don’t misuse it for personal benefits. “I clearly tell them what is under law and what is illegal so that they don’t get into trouble,” he says.
As for the present case, Singh believes that the there should be a separate IT cell for social media sites to automatically identify chat groups like the ‘bois locker room’ where such unethical conversations take place.
“We have IT cells that keep a check on terror-related activities and others but there is no separate system to track indecent messages in groups like the ‘bois locker room’. We don’t have the technology in place to automatically detect keywords like rape, child pornography etc. At times, people morph pictures of women from viral messages and re-circulate them and it isn’t always easy to track each and every channel the photos pass through,” he says.
After the incident, a lot of teenage girls have been reaching out to Singh suspecting that their pictures could have been shared on other internet chat rooms. According to Singh, such groups are very active on Snapchat and Reddit and it is important to sensitively deal with these cases.
“The girls don’t want their names out in the public and I make sure their identities aren’t disclosed anywhere when they contact me. A couple of months back, I worked on a similar case where some employees of an organisation in Mumbai were sharing pictures of their female colleagues on a Facebook confession page. At that time too, I didn’t disclose the name of the organisation on the request of the women who contacted me. I made sure their pictures were removed,” he says.
In the future, Singh wants to work with police department in other states as well and spread awareness on cyber crimes. He also plans to bring in new initiatives to help both the police and public in the bid to decrease cyber crimes in India.
Featured image by special arrangement.