Cyber Poachers Hack Bengal Tiger GPS Tracking Collars in a New Type of Cyber Crime

4 Oct 2013

GPS tracking collars meant to protect endangered Bengal tigers are being used against them by cyber poachers.

Protecting Endangered Bengal Tigers through GPS Tracking Collars

Bengal tigers are a rare breed that has been highly targeted by poachers for years. When GPS tracking technology became widely used for analyzing the behavior of animals in the wild, researchers in Madhya Pradesh, India, decided to use this same technology for their beloved and endangered breed of tigers. Bengal tigers are currently classified as an endangered species, which means that they are facing a very high risk of extinction.

The big cats were each outfitted with a GPS tracker that allowed local researchers to keep track of their whereabouts and monitor their daily behavior, in hopes of protecting them from poachers and other environmental conditions that were a danger to them.

Cyber Poachers Hack GPS Tracking Collars

Unfortunately, their positive efforts have recently worked against them when the poachers hacked into their computer system. The cyber crime allowed these criminals to hack into the GPS system and find the exact location of the Bengal tigers, saving the hackers/poachers from hunting through the jungle and looking for them in that way.

According to officials at the Satpura-Bori tiger reserve in Hoshangabad, one Bengal tiger was caught by a poacher and was used to hack into the GPS tracking system. While this information is meant to be confidential and highly limited, they have the potential for finding the exact location of other tigers currently being monitored. It is so limited, in fact, only three of the researchers have passwords that gain access to the real-time location and monitoring data.

The hacking was done by getting the login and password information from an email account associated with the GPS-outfitted research project, called Panna-211. There are several decisions still to be made in this case, including whether or not a complaint will be held against authorities of the project and finding out if there was a security breach. They may also be bringing the case up against the Section 66 of Information Technology Act according to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, due to a possible poaching attempt.

The hacker has yet to be identified, which is worrying wildlife officials even further. The only option they have at this point is to monitor the Bengals very closely, including every movement they make, for the next six months at least. It is not yet known if the cyber criminal poachers have been able to actually receive location information or other data after hacking into the system, but it is a definite concern.

Whether or not the hacker is caught, senior officials will be watching the movement and location of their Bengal tigers very closely and will act swiftly if anything unusual is found. Most likely, this would indicate a poacher has tracked down a tiger and will hopefully be caught in time.


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