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Pune 'hacker' arrest: Just the tip of the iceberg?

By Vicky Nanjappa
January 25, 2014 10:54 IST
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Corporates, realtors, and even IPL fixing -- the tentacles of the hacking network, whose alleged member was nabbed by a agencies of India, US, Romania and China on Friday, run broader than anticipated, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

In a rare international joint operation, the Central Bureau of Investigation along with the American Federal Bureau of Investigation and Chinese and Romanian agencies picked up hacker Amit Tiwary, son of a retired colonel, from Pune on Friday.

“Amit was a member of a full fledged organised and coordinated hacking network which spreads across many countries”, CBI sources told

Stealing identities, hacking into bank accounts and snooping into emails for information are part of this major international hacking racket which involves money worth over $600 million, the sources added.

The hacking hubs in Pune, Ghaziabad among other places in India hacked into accounts at the behest of some people which also included a syndicate involving in cheating customers holding credit/debit cards and bank accounts.

Interestingly this hacking hub also did private work which was related to businessmen and even matrimonial services.

According to the CBI there are around 16 such hacking hubs in India on the lines of the one allegedly being run by Tiwary.

These hubs are approached by major syndicates and also individuals seeking information. A lot of information has been sought by businessmen and corporates and the hackers have helped them with the same.

Corporates have sought information on the bank accounts and email details of their rivals, investigations have revealed.

In addition, there have been requests by parents looking to get their sons or daughters married. The hackers have been roped in to check into details of emails of those they were getting their children married to, CBI sources also informed.

There are also indications that the hackers were roped in during the Indian Premier League last year. A syndicate allegedly comprising bookies had approached the hub in Pune for information on accounts of some persons involved in the IPL. However, preliminary investigations would show that the deal did not come through as Tiwary was not happy with the money he had been offered.

Investigations and tip offs by the FBI, which promoted this raid in the first place, also indicate that realtors too had approached these hackers. Realtors sought information of those persons they were buying property from. Right from banking details to very personal information was sought by the realtors, investigations would show.

There is a great deal of interest that the FBI has in this case since there are several instances where these hackers have collected information relating to credit/debit and account numbers of persons. The FBI believes that this information was sold to a major syndicate who in turn indulged in identity theft. The US has been most affected by this since most of the accounts hacked were from there.

Sources in the CBI said that the Indian syndicate had hacked into nearly 1,300 emails of which 151 were from India. The hackers were paid $250 to hack into emails while for bank related information they charged $1000.

To hack into websites, the hackers were paid between $500 and $1000, sources also informed.

This racket according to the CBI has been in place since 2011 and it has an international ramification.

The FBI had dealt with a set of Russian hackers on similar lines in 2013. They believe that the two rackets have a connection.

Apart from finding out the accounts that were hacked into of individuals they also want to know if any of their government websites have been compromised. Further they also want to check if Gucifer, the famous hacker from Romania, had any connection with these hackers. During the raid on Friday even the Romanian agencies had taken part.

The FBI, which has been questioning Gucifer since the past one week, is believed to have got further details on the India hub.

They have been trailing this hub since the past one year and were touch with the CBI since the past month. It was after the arrest of Gucifer did they get vital information about the India operations which led to Friday’s crackdown.

The CBI sources said that so far there is nothing to show that Indian government sites were hacked into by the India hacking hub, but further investigations will tell a better picture.

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Vicky Nanjappa