How mercenary hackers sway litigation battles – based on trove of Indian hackers

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At least 75 U.S. and European companies, three dozen advocacy and media groups and numerous Western business executives were the subjects of these hacking attempts, Reuters found.

The Reuters report is based on interviews with victims, researchers, investigators, former U.S. government officials, lawyers and hackers, plus a review of court records from seven countries. It also draws on a unique database of more than 80,000 emails sent by Indian hackers to 13,000 targets over a seven-year period. The database is effectively the hackers’ hit list, and it reveals a down-to-the-second look at who the cyber mercenaries sent phishing emails to between 2013 and 2020.

The data comes from two providers of email services the spies used to execute their espionage campaigns. The providers gave the news agency access to the material after it inquired about the hackers’ use of their services; they offered the sensitive data on condition of anonymity.

Reuters then vetted the authenticity of the email data with six sets of experts. Scylla Intel, a boutique cyber investigations firm, analyzed the emails, as did researchers from British defense contractor BAE, U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant, and technology companies Linkedin, Microsoft and Google.

Each firm independently confirmed the database showed Indian hacking-for-hire activity by comparing it against data they had previously gathered about the hackers’ techniques. Three of the teams, at Mandiant, Google and LinkedIn, provided a closer analysis, finding the spying was linked to three Indian companies – one that Gupta founded, one that used to employ him and one he collaborated with.

“We assess with high confidence that this data set represents a good picture of the ongoing operations of Indian hack-for-hire firms,” said Shane Huntley, head of Google’s cyber threat analysis team.

Reuters reached out to every person in the database – sending requests for comment to each email address – and spoke to more than 250 individuals. Most of the respondents said the attempted hacks revealed in the email database occurred either ahead of anticipated lawsuits or as litigation was under way.

The targets’ lawyers were often hit, too. The Indian hackers tried to break into the inboxes of some 1,000 attorneys at 108 different law firms, Reuters found.

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Source: How mercenary hackers sway litigation battles

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