Indian ‘hack-for-hire’ firms target VIPs, says report

Illegal hackers, called “hack-for-hire” companies, are operating across India, infiltrating VIPs and states’ emails and phones for a fee paid by private investigators around the world, according to an undercover investigation Sunday claimed.

The Sunday Times and Bureau of Investigative Journalism conducted a covert operation to uncover several Indian hackers offering their services to hack into victims’ private email accounts and messages, on behalf of investigators working for autocratic States, British lawyers and their wealthy clients work.

According to the investigation, based on leaked documents and undercover work in India earlier this year, journalists posing as former MI6 agents-turned-private investigators claim a gang “took control of computers” affecting Pakistani politicians , generals and diplomats, and their overheard private conversations “apparently on behalf of Indian secret services”.

The hacker gang, which operates under the name WhiteInt, is run from a fourth-floor apartment in the suburbs of the tech town of Gurugram in Haryana. Its mastermind is a 31-year-old man — a casual TV cybersecurity pundit who also works a day job at the Indian branch of a British accounting firm, according to the Sunday Times report.

For the past seven years, he has been running a network of computer hackers hired by British private investigators to steal their targets’ email inboxes using “phishing” techniques, sources say.

Malicious software that takes control of computer cameras and microphones, allowing hackers to see and hear their victims are some of the methods used in such hack-for-hire operations, which cost hackers between US$3,000 and US$20,000. bring in dollars.

”I provide access to closed source information from PoI email and computers [person of interest] anywhere in the world … an average time span is about 20 to 30 days,” he was quoted as saying to the undercover journalists.

When approached by the team last month, he claimed he did not know some of the people named in his database and denied having hacked the others listed: “I can categorically say that I have not hacked, booted or hacked any of these people tried. Another agent contacted by the team was a 28-year-old computer specialist who boasted of hacking more than 500 email accounts, mostly on behalf of his corporate intelligence clients.

“The British and the whole world … use Indian hackers,” he is quoted as saying in Delhi.

When asked for comment last month, he claimed he only “hacked 100 times” and “blew my own trumpet”.

He claimed British companies had employed Indian hackers for more than a decade. One of them was reportedly founded in Delhi more than a dozen years ago, ostensibly to train a new generation of “ethical” hackers who could help protect individuals and businesses from cyberattacks.

However, the now-defunct company is said to have secretly built a lucrative sideline, taking money from customers around the world to hack individuals. Those clients are said to have included UK-based corporate intelligence firms, the Sunday Times reported.

The undercover investigation concludes that using the “Indian underworld to break into email accounts and smartphones has become a rampant practice for years”.

UK investigators have been able to hire hack-for-hire firms without fear of being prosecuted for breaching the country’s computer misuse laws.

Some of the targets in the leaked database they are accessing are British lawyers and wealthy individuals involved in cases before London’s High Court, including reportedly a member of Britain’s wealthiest Indian Hinduja family, the report said Sunday Times.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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