Cyber-Poachers Hack GPS Collar Data to Pinpoint Tigers

CC BY 2.0. Ali -Arsh

Considering their long history as a favorite target among poachers, it's not surprising that Bengal tigers are now among the planet's most elusive creatures. But while most illegal hunters faced long days of bushwhacking through the dark jungle in hopes of spotting the big cat before it finds them, a dangerous new breed of cyber-savvy poachers may be on the rise -- using conservation tools to help target their illicit prey.

Wildlife officials responsible for monitoring the species in the Satpura-Bori tiger reserve say that their computer systems were recently hacked to collect data from a tiger's GPS collar. The cyber crime, the first of its kind, would allow the poachers real-time data on where the animals were within the reserve, eliminating the dangerous work of tracking them down.

The Times of India reports that location data on at least one collared tiger, identified as Panna-211, may have been compromised. Normally, access to such sensitive information is strictly limited; only three wildlife specialists possess passcodes to view the GPS tracking data.

Since the perpetrator is yet unknown, nor the viability of the hacked information, officials say they will be closely monitoring Panna-211's movement for the next 6 months.

As many iconic endangered species continue to decline due to poaching, conservationists have increasingly begun turning to high-tech tools to aid in their protection. In wrong hands, however, the information could be immensely valuable to criminals with the opposite intention.