Wayanad : Police arrested a 14-year old school boy here on Friday for threatening girl students at his school by sending them morphed naked photographs and circulating them in social networking sites using fake Instagram and Telegram profiles.
Most of the girls kept mum as the boy had withdrawn the morphed photographs on their request. For creating the morphed photographs of girls, the boy applied the Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.
In order to fool the investigation agencies, the youngster created a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for circulating the morphed photographs. He also availed Chatbots software application for mimicking online interactions.
District Cyber Police Station Inspector Shaju Joseph and team zeroed in on the accused after weeks even as complaints continued to flow in from concerned parents. The fake photos were sent to the victims and friends through fake Instagram and Telegram accounts. The Cyber police wing personnel Additional Sub Inspector Joyce John, Civil Police Officers KA Salam, Renjith and C Vineesha were part of the investigation team.
Accused operated crime through mobile phones of father and uncle
According to an official in the investigation team, the 9th standard boy had morphed the pictures of more than 20 girls in his class and adjacent classes, but only three parents approached the police whereas others kept mum as worried about the future of the girls and impact of the incident on their honour. Smart enough, the boy used the mobile phones of his father and paternal uncle for the shadowy act and told the girls that he had received the morphed photos from another phone.
However, panic-stricken, all the parents approached the head teacher with complaints. When the number of complaints went up, the investigation team was under the impression that a gang had operated the crime with the intention to trap these girls. But the investigation got delayed as the information from Telegram company over the details of gadgets used for the morphing of the pictures and circulating in the social networking sites, got delayed.
"When we received the information on Thursday, we found two mobile phones involved in the crime and we thought our assumptions were right", said the official.
"But to our dismay, when we zeroed in on the users of the phones we were shocked that both the mobile phone owners were just mobile literates and ignorant about the technical possibilities of the gadgets. But on further questioning, we realized that a boy at their house is a student of the school. This exposed his role in the crime," said police.
The boy had morphed the photographs of girls from the phone of his uncle and later circulated the morphed pictures from the phone of his father. He himself sent the morphed photographs to his own mobile number. He not only sent the morphed pictures to the victims but also shared it with a few other girls and boys, resulting in a hue and cry among the students and parents.
Interestingly, parents of only three girls had submitted complaints initially that too without referring to the boy. The school authority reported the matter to police on Friday after many parents approached the head teacher of the school with the same complaint. When police quizzed the boy's father and uncle, both claimed innocence, saying Kuttan (referring to the boy) has been playing with the mobile every day.
However, the boy refused to cooperate with the interrogation saying that he also had been receiving the morphed photographs. But when police said his father and uncle would be arrested and imprisoned soon, he confessed to the crime. Revealing his motive behind the crime, the boy told the police that he had threatened a girl with a morphed photograph telling her that he had received it from another mobile number and he would not circulate the morphed one only if she sent her an original naked photograph. The panic-stricken girl had followed his commands. The same trick he had applied to a few more girls, but bounced as three of them approached the police.
"Though one of the complainants had just hinted at the name of the boy, we had waited as we suspected a gang behind this. We never thought this meek boy would be doing such complex technological tasks to malign the image of so many girls", he added. The police have slapped charges under the IT Act and POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences), Act against the boy. However as the accused is a minor, he would be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act and would be subjected to continuous counselling. However, the incident forced Superintendent of Police Padam Singh to come out with sharp warnings to parents who allow the wards to have a free hand over mobile phones.
'Parents in trouble if minor wards engage in cyber crimes'
As the number of children involved in misusing technology for cyber crimes is increasing in the district, Wayanad Superintendent of Police Padam Singh warned parents of legal consequences if their wards engage in cyber crimes misusing technology. The parents would be in trouble as the internet connections are in their name and they are the owners of the mobile SIM cards used for executing the crimes, he said.