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Delhi-based firm accused of spying on individuals, organisations in several countries, hacking senior politicians, NGOs, and CEOs

Toronto-based Internet watchdog Citizen Lab has reportedly spent over two years investigating the Delhi firm’s hacking operations. "This is one of the largest spy-for-hire operations ever exposed," said Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton.

An IT firm from Delhi named ‘BellTroX InfoTech Services’ has been accused of providing hacking services to help clients spying on over 10,000 email accounts over a period of seven years, reports Reuters.

According to a Reuters report, the New Delhi-based technology company, BellTroX InfoTech Services, is alleged to be linked with a ‘hack for hire’ operation, targeting thousands of individuals and organisations in six continents, including senior politicians, government prosecutors, CEOs, journalists and human rights defenders.

The BellTroX InfoTech Services has been accused of targeting high-level email accounts including those of European government officials, gambling tycoons in the Bahamas, and big-time investors in the United States including equity giant KKR and Muddy Waters.

‘Dark Basin’

Some of the other targets are allegedly the Rockefeller Family Fund, Climate Investigations Center, Greenpeace, Center for International Environmental Law, Oil Change International, Public Citizen, Conservation Law Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists and several others.

The other targets of the Delhi-based IT company include judges based in South Africa, politicians in Mexico, lawyers based in France, environmental groups and journalists from the US.

According to report by Reuters, the people familiar with the company said that the American companies targeted by the BellTroX are currently under investigation by the US law enforcement.

Even US advocacy groups are also repeatedly targeted by the spying from Delhi-based IT company. The digital rights organizations Free Press and Fight for the Future, both of whom have lobbied for net neutrality, have been affected in a limited manner as only a few numbers of employee accounts were compromised.

The ‘Citizen Lab’ a laboratory based in Toronto which reportedly investigated the said firm’s association with hacking services, had named it Dark Basin. The Citizen Lab has stated that Dark Basin has been linked to phishing and espionage of American nonprofits organisations working on a campaign called #ExxonKnew, which had claimed that ExxonMobil had suppressed information about climate change for decades.

IT firm spied with malicious emails, porn websites

Reportedly, BellTroX spied on its victims with malicious emails, some imitating colleagues or relatives while others disguising as graphic notifications to unsubscribe from pornography websites.

According to an investigation by Reuters, tens of thousands of malicious messages designed to fool victims into giving up their passwords were allegedly sent by BellTroX between 2013 and 2020.

Toronto-based Internet watchdog Citizen Lab has reportedly spent over two years investigating the Delhi firm’s hacking operations. “This is one of the largest spy-for-hire operations ever exposed,” said Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton according to the Reuters report.

Even though these small firms do not come under the radar compared to the state-sponsored espionage groups or headline-grabbing heists, cyber mercenary services are widely used, Railton said. He added that the investigation found that no sector is immune.

IT firm owner denies any wrongdoing

BellTroX’s Gupta has been charged in a hacking case in which two US private investigators had confessed to paying him to hack the accounts of marketing executives. Later, Gupta was declared a fugitive in 2017.

Meanwhile, Sumit Gupta, who is the owner of the company, declined to disclose who were his clients and also denied any wrongdoing. The details of the BellTroX’s clients are still unknown. Gupta said he had only ever helped private investigators download messages from email inboxes after they provided him with login details.

“I didn’t help them access anything, I just helped them with downloading the mails and they provided me all the details,” he told Reuters. “I am not aware how they got these details but I was just helping them with the technical support,” said Sumit Gupta.

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