Recent events have shed light on the attempt of Russian hackers to infiltrate the Indian Navy and Air Force exams through the dark web. The Intelligence Department of Delhi Police were the ones who brought the widespread operation to hack into numerous entrance exams and complete them remotely.
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New Delhi: The Delhi Police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit said Wednesday that a syndicate of three components functioning from Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, and Rajasthan used Russian hackers to enable over 450 candidates to cheat in a wide assortment of competitive examinations, spanning out from Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to the Indian Air Force and Navy exams.
Exam takers were duped into paying large sums to have someone else give their tests for them through remote access for nearly two years. So far, six individuals have been apprehended, and police are now looking for the ‘customers’ who provided money to the accused, as well as the proprietors and workers of the exam centers at which blatant cheating occurred.
The investigation to uncover the ring took around six months, as according to the to the authorities. ““We received intelligence that a few syndicates are involved in unauthorised access of various competitive exams and are charging hefty amounts — from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per candidate — for getting the candidates the desired scores,” said K.P.S. Malhotra, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), IFSO Special Cell.
Raj Teotia, a 33-year-old Palwal, Haryana native, is the prime accused in the case and the principal contact point with Russian associates. Teotia does have four charges ongoing with the Haryana Special Task Force (STF), according to DCP Malhotra, and a monetary compensation of Rs 1 lakh was offered for his apprehension. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was also searching for him.
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“Teotia has been running exam-solving rackets for five years. The CBI and the Haryana cases against him are for JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) fraud and cheating,” DCP Malhotra said.
The CBI opened the JEE Mains probe on September 1st of last year to look into anomalies in the entrance test for admittance to leading engineering institutes. In that case, a gang of so-called “solvers” infiltrated into computers and took the exams for engineering applicants, all of whom acted as if they were making calculations and solve problems.
Who is Raj Teotia?
Raj Teotia, as per the authorities, has been operating exam cheating frauds for the last several years, including not only the GMAT and JEE, as well as the TOEFL, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Cisco and IBM certification exams, and perhaps even entrance examinations for the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Teotia maintained connections in Russia since he worked in the tourism industry, according to a police source, but his breakthrough arrived when his wife had to take an internet based test a few years ago.
“Teotia used to work in a travel and tourism company, and that’s where he built some contacts in Russia. His wife had once taken an online exam and that’s when he started this racket,” the police source said.
“He started investing in coaching institutes to build the modus operandi and stayed in touch with the Russian hackers to understand loopholes in the online exam systems,” the source added.
According to another Delhi Police informant, Teotia began his criminal operations in 2017 once he established “examination labs” in Jaipur and Kota. “His examination centre was blacklisted later, but he had mastered the art of opening and operating such establishments. If one place was blacklisted, he would just open a new one at a different location with a different name,” the insider claimed.
According to this source, Teotia saw an opening when he learnt that Russian cybercriminals had devised methods for remotely infiltrating online exam systems and chose to take advantage of it. According to the police source, he presumably “got in touch with Russian hackers through a girlfriend.”
Teotia was “constantly in touch” with Russian hackers, according to DCP Malhotra. “He visited Russia in 2018. Russian hackers stayed at his place during the lockdown,” he alleged.
“During the probe, Teotia revealed that around 450 candidates had passed various competitive exams through his syndicate. Of these, 18 candidates got high scores in GMAT,” DCP Malhotra said.
A Delhi Police source added: “During interrogation, accused Raj Teotia has disclosed that he and his syndicate had remotely accessed/hacked the recruitment examinations of SSC CHSL (Combined Higher Secondary Level Exam), Indian Navy, Indian Air force, Forest Guard, Railway Group D and JVVNL (Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited), Rajasthan.”
Crackdown revealed three distinct modules
A Delhi Police constable disguised as a decoy consumer who intended to cheat on the GMAT, and Teotia’s booming business was busted. As per the DCP, the racketeers demanded a big chunk of money and, after numerous deliberations, reached an agreement with the decoy applicant.
“After the deal, the constable who posed as the candidate appeared for the exam on 26 December 2021 and scored 780 out of 800 in the GMAT exam, which is around 97 per cent. It is a very high score that can get through any top MBA college abroad,” the DCP said.
The syndicate’s activities were divided across the three components, according to police findings. The Mumbai module communicated with candidates/aspirants and handled payments, while the Rajasthan module hacked systems for remote connectivity and the Delhi module concentrated on exam preparation.
In addition to Teotia, five other people have been detained in the case: Mumbai’s Arshad Dhunna (39), Salman Dhunna (28), and Hemal Shah (42) and Delhi’s Kunal Goel (39) and Mohit Sharma (35)
Mohit Sharma, who seems to have a B.Tech in mechanical engineering and has delivered GMAT instruction at numerous institutes, was the “exam solver” among these. During the lockdown, he was reached by Kunal Goel on Facebook, who persuaded him to enter the racket, according to the authorities.
Arshad and Salman Dhunna, as well as Hemal Shah, owned competitive exam tutoring institutions in Mumbai. According to the investigators, these centers helped them find weak candidates, and the remainder of the procedure took place on the dark web.
“Teotia has been doing this for years now. He had also lured some owners of exam centers and involved them in the exam hacking and solving syndicate for money,” the DCP said.
Owners and workers of 23 such examination centers are already being monitored and questioned, according to police sources.
“We are taking all legal courses and informing the associated agencies about candidates who have cleared these exams,” the DCP said.
The hacking and solving process
The candidates were allegedly requested to install software such as Ultraviewer, Teamviewer, and Imperius Remote, which would enable them to control their laptops remotely.
After that, the candidate’s device would be linked to the solver’s computer, who would then attempt all of the exam’s queries.
To hide their tracks, the cybercriminals would hide the remote access file on the student’s computer as a system file. They also inserted additional technology to help dodge discovery by exam-conducting authorities/companies’ security software, making it challenging for supervisors to spot irregularities in student motion.