Suspect held for harassing woman through fake Facebook accounts

By Saher Baloch

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency has arrested a man for allegedly harassing a woman by operating three fake Facebook profile accounts in her name.

The arrest, made late Wednesday evening and officially announced on Thursday morning, was made on the complaint of a 28-year-old woman. In her complaint to the Cyber Crime Circle (CCC) on Feb 3, a copy of which has been obtained by Dawn, the complainant, who was accompanied by her mother at the time of filing the report, alleged that a man had made a fake Facebook account of her which he had been operating for the previous three months. She said she came to know of it on Dec 18, 2015, when her sister received a friend request from the fake account and informed her about it. The man, she said, had posted her pictures and added a lot of men apart from people from her friends’ circle.

FIA officials said that the alleged hacker also got hold of her photos from her Facebook account due to “low privacy settings”. Soon, those pictures were added to the fake account he made later. The FIA officials said they found three profile accounts of the complainant which had “inappropriate pictures”.

The suspect, a resident of Liaquatabad, was arrested at a call centre in Tauheed Commercial, Defence Housing Authority, Phase V, where he works. The FIA officials made the arrest in the evening after introducing themselves to the head of the facility. The alleged hacker was asked about the accounts which the officials said he admitted that he had created. Apart from confessing to having sent friend requests to the complainant woman’s friends and relatives, he also admitted having chatted with her friends through the alleged fake account in which he used abusive language also. The officials also seized the electronic equipment, including a computer and a USB drive, from the suspected hacker’s home in Liaquatabad. Later in the evening, the suspect also gave the passwords he used for the alleged fake Facebook accounts.

After gathering the data, CCC officials contacted the complainant, who confirmed to them that the suspect used to be “her classmate and later joined the call centre where he was arrested,” said an FIA official related to the case.

The 30-year-old ‘hacker’, now in FIA custody on a two-day remand, will be presented before a judicial magistrate after its completion. In his confessional statement to the FIA officials, he said “he was in love with the girl and when his feelings were not reciprocated, he decided to make a fake account.” He added that he “made a huge mistake without realising what I was doing at the time. My only intent was to get her attention.”

On learning of his arrest from his co-workers, his parents met him at the FIA office. Based on his confessional statement and collection of data, an FIR (04/2016) was registered on Thursday under Sections 36/37 of the Electronic Transactions Ordinance 2002 read with Section 419 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The punishment for the crime is up to seven years in prison with Rs1 million as a fine.

Deputy director of the Cyber Crime Wing Zaeem Ahmed said that 18 similar cases had been reported last year. Speaking about this particular case, he said the process would take time. It took two to eight weeks for Facebook to respond to a court order seeking its record. After attaining the Facebook record, the log history and Internet provider history was searched for, which ended with raiding and seizing of the electronic equipment used in the offence. A court procedure ensued after this in which the judicial magistrate sent the suspect to the trial court.

An FIA source pointed to the current lack of legislation on cybercrime which created hurdles in the investigation. “We are just about managing. We don’t have enough space to operate. We can’t ask Gmail, Twitter and Yahoo for their records. Most of the complaints we receive are from the users of Gmail and Twitter. We recently received a request from a big media house about threats they received on Twitter and we are still trying to get hold of the records,” the source added.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2016

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