India allegedly hacks US-China trade watchdog

Summary:India government spy unit steals e-mail exchanges between staff members of U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission using know-how provided by mobile phone makers, report says.

The United States is looking into claims that an Indian government spy unit had hacked into the e-mail system of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission using technical know-how provided by mobile phone vendors, one report stated.

According to Reuters report Monday, the investigation was called for after hackers had posted what appeared to be an Indian military intelligence document on cyberspying detailing plans to target the commission. The hack was allegedly conducted based on technological expertise provided by three Western mobile phone manufacturers--Research In Motion (RIM), Nokia and Apple--in exchange for Indian market presence for their products, it added.

The purported e-mail exchanges between U.S.-China commission staff members were dated between September and October 2011, and were attached to what seemed like a memo datad Oct. 6 last year and signed by a Colonel Ishwal Singh of India's Directorate General of Military Intelligence, Foreign Division, the report stated.

The information was released by hacker group Lords of Dharmaraja, which had exposed Symantec's antivirus code last Friday, according to a separate report by U.K. news site The Register on Monday.

"We are aware of these reports and have contacted relevant authorities to investigate the matter. We are unable to make further comments at this time," Jonathan Weston, spokesperson for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said on Monday.

India officials could not be reached for comments on the document's content and authenticity, Reuters noted. However, it pointed to an India-based Web site which quoted an unnamed army representative denying the country's use of mobile companies' know-how to spy on the Commission, and said the documents were forged.

When contacted by the news wire, an Apple spokesperson said the company had not provided the Indian government with backdoor access to its products. Nokia declined to comment and RIM could not be reached.

This potential e-mail breach is the latest in a series of cyberespionage.

Last month, it was reported that U.S. Chamber of Commerce's systems were infiltrated by China-based hackers who tracked and stole e-mail messages from employees working on its Asia policy. U.S. officials also said that hackers in China broke into ISP networks serving hotels and used traveling employees to gain access to confidential corporate e-mails. 

Topics: IT Employment, China, India, Legal, Security

About

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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