Intelligence sources in Delhi have cast doubts over claims that an Indian spy agency broke into the emails of a US commission that monitors economic and security relations between the US and China.
US investigates 'hacking for market share' claims
NEW DELHI // Intelligence sources in Delhi have cast doubts over claims that an Indian spy agency broke into the emails of a US commission that monitors economic and security relations between the US and China.
A memo purporting to come from Indian military intelligence was posted by hackers on the internet this week, suggesting mobile device manufacturers Apple, Nokia, and Research in Motion (RIM), which produces the BlackBerry, provided the Indian government with access to their devices "in exchange for Indian market presence".
The memo, which has not been independently verified, suggests this access was then used to hack into the emails of officials at the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, several of which were published online by a group called the Lords of Dharmaraja.
US authorities are investigating the allegations. The commission has not denied the authenticity of the emails, which discuss US companies, such as General Electric, becoming dependent on China for their operations and what the US government should do about Chinese currency manipulation.
The Indian government has declined to comment on the issue.
Apple denied that it had provided the Indian government with backdoor access to its products, while Nokia and RIM refused to comment.
However, a source within the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence service, said Indian agencies were unlikely to strike deals with companies to gain access to emails.
"A year ago, these companies were under a lot of pressure to provide access to confidential emails," the source said.
"But when they were not able to give it, the intelligence services just used their own hackers."
In 2010, RIM came under concerted pressure from the Indian government to provide access to its BlackBerry Messenger and Internet Browsing services. The company finally provided this access in January 2011, allowing the Indian government to eavesdrop on its customers.
However, the company was not able to provide access to email accounts because it did not hold customer passwords.
India's intelligence services are known to have sophisticated surveillance capabilities, which it uses to monitor internal and external threats.
"Military Intelligence has the skills and the state-of-the-art equipment to hack into emails and monitor telephone calls," said Rahul Bedi, an analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly, based in New Delhi.
"But whether they have the ... [courage] to monitor the Americans is another question."
Relations between India and China are tense as they vie for influence in Asia and struggle to resolve lingering border issues. India would be intensely interested in the official US view of China.