Exclusive: Jaish-e-Mohammed-linked mobile app active on Google Play Store
A mobile application linked with Pakistan-based terrorist organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), remains active on Google Play Store for Android phone users worldwide. Named ‘Achi Bateen’, the mobile application is a digital platform that provides Islamic teachings. It doesn’t proclaim its association with the outfit openly. However, the app’s developer page hosts content identified with JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar.
It also contains links to external web pages that host books, literature, and audio messages of Masood Azhar and his associates. JeM has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) since 2001. The group has also been identified as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) by the United States Department of State.
JeM-LINKED APP ACTIVE ON GOOGLE PLAY STORE
The Android application was first launched on December 4, 2020 at the Play Store. It has recorded more than 5,000 downloads so far. The free ‘educational’ app contains quotes, messages, and links to books of several Islamic preachers from Pakistan. The content ranges from mainstream names such ash Maulana Tariq Jamil to the teachings of late hardliner Rashid Ahmed.
The app’s developers have created a blog page that is hyperlinked to the app’s description page. The web page has old write-ups by Masood Azhar under the pen name ‘Saadi’, a pseudo-identity well-identified with the JeM chief.
The page hosts links to two external pages. One of them hosts audio messages of Masood Azhar recorded between 2001 and 2019. Other recordings feature Masood Azhar’s younger brother and operational head of JeM, Abdul Rauf Asghar, and his close associate, Talha Saif. Another page linked with the developer’s blog hosts links to several books allegedly written by Masood Azhar.
Technical analysis of the application by the information security lab, Innefu Labs, for India Today shows that the app has been communicating to a server in Germany. “The application is connecting to servers in Contabo data centre based out of Germany. This company had been in news for ignoring copyright claims made by different individuals,” said Tarun Wig, co-founder of Innefu Lab.
According to Wig, the app asks for multiple permissions which are different from application functionality. Usually, this is done when you want to add further functionality and not ask for more permission.
This behaviour is similar to the Chinese UC browser application, earlier banned by India, which could execute different classes in the application container once the application was installed the first time.
Once installed, the app accesses both network and GPS (Global Positioning System) location — when GPS is active — of the mobile device. The app can start automatically once the user starts his device, and it continues to run in the background as well. It has access to the phone’s approximate and precise location, network, storage, media, and other files.
“An app of this sort if identified should be immediately reported to Google that will remove the application from Play Store and also inform users for the same,” added Wig.