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Rediff.com  » News » US probes alleged hacking by India spy unit

US probes alleged hacking by India spy unit

January 10, 2012 14:09 IST

The United States is reported to have launched an investigation into allegations that India's Military Intelligence hacked into e-mails of a US Congressional commission that monitors economic and security relations between the US and China.

Last weekend, a group of hackers posted online 'secret' documents it claimed allegedly revealed Indian government arm-twisting international mobile phone manufacturers Nokia, Apple and RIM, makers of the BlackBerry, to help it spy on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The Commission was established by the US Congress to study economic and security issues involving America and China.

This issue was first reported in India by this correspondent for Rediff.com

The hackers, the 'Lords of Dharamraja', alleged that India's 'Military Intelligence' forced these mobile companies into reportedly providing access to confidential information related to the Commission, allegedly in exchange for access to India's booming mobile phone markets.

The documents include transcripts of alleged e-mail exchanges among Commission members.

It is unclear how Military Intelligence could have promised the mobile majors access to India's telecom business, which has been deregulated since the late 1990s, as the leaked documents alleged.

'Military Intelligence and the CBI have been conducting bilateral cellular and Internet surveillance operations since April 2011...' the documents leaked by the 'Lords of Dharamraja' alleged.

Military Intelligence is the Indian Army's intelligence arm; the CBI refers to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Jonathan Weston, a spokesman for the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told Reuters: 'We are aware of these reports and have contacted relevant authorities to investigate the matter.'

Varghese M Thomas, Director, Corporate Communications, India and Saarc, RIM, told Rediff.com: "As a reminder of RIM's longstanding position regarding 'lawful access' matters around the world, RIM adheres to its published Lawful Access Principles. These four core principles outline RIM's approach to providing carriers with the capabilities necessary to address lawful access requirements in their respective countries."

Keith Nowak, a Nokia spokesperson in the US, told Rediff.com: "While we cannot comment on the authenticity of the reports cited, Nokia takes the privacy of customers and their data seriously and we are committed to comply with all applicable data protection and privacy laws."

Apple Representative Alan Hely denied Apple had anything to do with the matter. "I am going to decline to comment on the memo/document, but I can deny that backdoor access was provided."

The Indian Army has denied reports that it used the mobile companies to spy on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

A military spokesperson told Rediff.com on the telephone on Sunday morning that the documents were forged and posted online with malicious intent.

The documents's authenticity could not be independently verified. The Commission does not deny the authenticity of the e-mails, a Reuters report stated.

The hackers -- whose nationality has not been verified -- reportedly gained access to Indian Military Intelligence servers after they broke into Symantec (the makers of Norton anti-virus) machines.

Additional reportage: P Rajendran in New York

Faisal Kidwai in Mumbai