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Indian hackers targeted politicians, private individuals worldwide: Report

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An investigation by a UK-based media outlet has exposed online operating from India who illegally targeted the email accounts of hundreds of high-profile government and private individuals around the world, including in Pakistan.


The report by the Sunday Times claimed that those on the list of individuals targeted included Pakistan’s politicians, diplomats and generals. The seized control of computers owned by them and “eavesdropped on their private conversations apparently at the behest of the Indian secret services”, it added.


Also on the list of targeted individuals were: one of the Hinduja brothers Ashok Hinduja; Mark Fullbrook, Liz Truss’s chief of staff when prime minister; former UK chancellor Philip Hammond; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Fawad Chaudhry; former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf; the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason; Switzerland president Ignazio Cassis; former UEAFA president Michel Platini, and German billionaire Stefan Quandt, who co-owns BMW.


Detailing its investigation, the Times said its undercover reporters visited India earlier this year and posed as former MI6 agents-turned corporate investigators, working for a fake corporate investigation company in Mayfair, London, called Beaufort Intelligence.


They then contacted some of India’s top online hackers, saying they needed private information on targets of their clients. Soon, they began receiving offers of help. The reporters then set up meetings with the alleged and secretly filmed their conversations.


One of the alleged hackers talked to the undercover reporters in Delhi online from Bengaluru, the report said. The report identified him as Utkarsh Bhargava.


Bhargava told the reporters he had been for the Indian government and had broken into the computer systems of different ministries in several countries, including Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Cambodia and Canada, according to the Times report.


“Our job was to get the data and hand it over” he told them.


He also claimed that the Indian police “did not understand these things”, so they do not try to prosecute illegal hackers. Bhargava also said he used Pegasus software, which was at the centre of a global snooping scandal. This software can be installed on mobile phones without the knowledge of the user to gain control of messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram.


The reporters also met former Indian Army Brigadier Ram Chhillar, who founded the cyber intelligence company Phronesis. Brigadier Chhillar said he was able to mine the dark web for people’s personal data stolen in previous cyber attacks or corporate data breaches, according to the report.


Explaining the modus operandi of these hackers, the report said the hackers would often befriend their targets on social media by sending them a link to click on. Once the targets clicked on the link, they would download the malware that would allow the hackers access to their email accounts.


The Sunday Times said its reporters also met a group of hackers operating from an office in Gurugram. Named WhiteInt, this outlet was run by Aditya Jain, 31.


Jain moonlights as a hacker and has a regular job at Deloitte. He claimed he could hack into any email account in the world within 30 days. The reporters got hold of Jain’s database.


Tej Singh Rathore, 28, a graduate of Rajasthan Technical University in Kota, explained to the reporters how he obtained passwords through phishing. “Ninety per cent of private investigators use Indian hackers to do this kind of job,” he claimed.

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