Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Evidence planted on Stan Swamy’s laptop, says forensic report

A hacker planted evidence on a device owned by prominent human rights defender Stan Swamy, who was an undertrial prisoner in the Bhima Koregaon case, said a report by a United States-based digital forensics firm.

The analysis was released by Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm Arsenal Consulting, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The firm had previously made similar revelations about other accused persons Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson.

84-year-old Stan Swamy died in custody at a Mumbai hospital on 5 July 2021, nearly nine months after he was arrested under the draconian UAPA. Human rights bodies and defenders called Swamy’s death in custody “institutional murder.”

Swamy had been targeted by an extensive malware campaign for nearly five years till his device was seized by the police in June 2019, stated the new report.

The hacker had complete control over his computer and placed dozens of files in a hidden folder without his knowledge, said Arsenal Consulting. The hacker used WinSCP to copy over 24,000 files and folders from Stan Swamy’s computer onto the hacker’s own server, it stated. WinSCP is a free file transfer tool for Windows.

The hacker planted documents on the Jesuit priest’s computer for the first time in July 2017 and continued to do so for two years, according to The Washington Post.

Arsenal Consulting said Swamy’s device was infected with NetWire in October 2014, five years before his arrest. NetWire is a malware that can upload and download documents from a target’s computer and also access emails as well as passwords.

Moments before the police seized Swamy’s laptop in 2019 , the hacker carried out a wide-ranging “clean-up” operation, which included getting rid of malware and surveillance data, The Washington Post reported.

The unidentified hacker appeared to be the same person who had targeted other rights defenders Wilson and Gadling, in view of the usage of the same command and control servers, and the same NetWire configurations, claims the United States-based digital forensics firm.

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