Late last night on Saturday, the Twitter account of controversial NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt appeared hacked. Tweets were posted by the same group – calling itself “Legion” – that had earlier claimed to hack Twitter accounts of Rahul Gandhi and Vijay Mallya.
The involvement of the same group was confirmed as the modus operandi of the hackers was the same i.e. first crack and hack the email systems and then use the emails to reset password of the associated Twitter account.
An employee of Twitter confirmed that the Twitter accounts were hacked as the users like Rahul Gandhi, Vijay Mallya and now Barkha Dutt were not using the two-step authentication process, which would have made access to a mobile phone compulsory, apart from the password, for logging into Twitter:
Enable 2FA for ur Twitter linked Email accounts NOW! The Twitter accounts are legitimately logged into after gaining credentials via email.
— Raheel Khursheed (@Raheelk) December 10, 2016
The above was confirmed when the Twitter account of anther NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar was hacked a couple of hours after hacking of Barkha Dutt’s account. It appears that both Barkha and Ravish were using their official NDTV emails to log into Twitter, which allowed the hackers to reset their passwords after hacking into the email accounts.
So essentially this was another email hack, even though it’s the hacking of Twitter accounts that have made all the news in the past two weeks.
While the emails of Congress were not leaked – the hackers claim that they will leak those in the new year – email archive files of Vijay Mallya and Barkha Dutt were leaked by the hackers. Though there was one difference – in case of Mallya, hackers put selective information from the email files on the hacked Twitter page, no such selective emails were released by the hackers on the hacked Twitter pages of either Barkha Dutt or Ravish Kumar.
As we had pointed out in our earlier report, those leaks from Mallya’s emails contained private and confidential information about his business deals and properties, while the exact nature of email leaks of Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar is yet not known.
However, it does appear that there is some sensitive and confidential information, perhaps damaging too, contained in those emails as NDTV declared that they will be approaching courts to stop these emails from being accessed by the public:
We are asking relevant authorities, including courts, to take strong action. 2/2
— NDTV (@ndtv) December 10, 2016
This is similar to what Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh had done around ten years ago when his phone conversation with some personalities were reportedly recorded and in the process of being leaked. He approached courts and made sure that no media organisation carried those tapes.
Many personalities, such as Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan had then argued that the tapes should be released as they could throw light on misuse of public offices.
One can similarly argue that the emails of these top journalists should also be released if they throw light on some politician-media nexus or some other wrongdoings by public figures. In fact, similar arguments were put forward when Radia tapes were released – incidentally Barkha Dutt was involved there too – and privacy concerns were put on the backburner as the information contained in the tapes hinted at corruption and nexus between corporate houses, politicians and media.
However, this time most of the talking heads are arguing that the email hacks are against privacy, which of course it is, just like any phone tapping or sting operation. Not just against privacy, email hacking is a cyber crime, and we at OpIndia.com are not endorsing that.
We leave upon the readers to conclude whether the arguments of various people are consistent over years vis a vis incidents of similar nature.
Meanwhile a few people on Twitter are making a few claims based on the leaked email archive files of Barkha and Ravish, but we are not carrying those.
And on expected lines, many in the media, abetted by Congress and AAP leaders and supporters, are again making this breach of email security an issue about reliability of digital transactions and cashless economy.