According to the report, instances were found of files being renamed and were planted using NetWire, a malicious software that opens the door to the device for hackers. The hacker then remotely changed, added, or deleted contents and viewed computer activity.
Arsenal Consulting, a US-based digital forensics company, in its second report in two months has said that an unknown hacker planted 22 “incriminating” files in activist Rona Wilson’s computer, days after the Bhima Koregaon violence in Maharashtra in 2018.
The activist is accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), participating in a conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister and overthrow the government, and has been imprisoned since June 6, 2018.
In a follow-up to its first report in February 2021, the digital forensics company has said that it received a hard drive on July 31, 2020, was asked by Wilson’s defense counsel to examine 24 additional files pertaining to the case. The report said,
“Arsenal has determined that there is no evidence of legitimate interaction with the additional files of interest on Mr. Wilson’s computer and that 22 of the 24 of the files are directly connected to the attacker identified in Report I.”
The additional 24 files largely contain purported correspondence between members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), discussions on fund transfers, how to improve women’s representation in organizations, difficulties party members face in communicating with each other, concerns over state crackdown, and some photographs of Maoist guerillas.
The ‘Report 1’ of February had concluded that the computer was hacked using malicious software to plant 10 files, mostly “incriminating” letters, and it faced sustained electronic spying.
According to Arsenal’s findings, it found instances of files being renamed and were planted using NetWire, malicious software that opens the door to the device for hackers. The hacker then remotely changed, added, or deleted contents and viewed computer activity.
These files have been cited extensively as “incriminating evidence” by the Pune Police in their initial investigations and later by the NIA, who overtook the investigation post the formation of Maharashtra’s MVA government. This evidence led to Wilson and 15 others—including lawyers, academics and artists—being arrested and jailed under UAPA, except poet Varavara Rao who was granted bail recently.
The National Investigation Agency in February 2021 had discredited Arsenal’s report as unreliable and is likely to take the same stance if and when the second report is presented in front of the court. Spokesperson Jaya Roy told Article 14 “We do not take cognizance of reports from private labs. There are notified labs for our forensic examination like RFSL (Regional Forensic Science Laboratory) and CFSL (Central Forensic Science Laboratory).”
Several Dalit and Hindu groups had clashed on 1st January 2018 leading to violent riots at Bhima Koregaon following the celebration of the bi-centenary celebration of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.