Over the past year, a string of high-profile cyberattacks coming from Russia and China has galvanized the United States and its western allies into taking swift action to counter the escalating incidents. Consequently, the SolarWinds spyware infiltration, the Microsoft Exchange hack, and ransomware attacks launched by criminal gangs harbored by the Kremlin dominate headlines and drive nation-state cybersecurity responses.
However, it’s not always Russia or China who are dangerous adversaries in the digital realm. Smaller threat groups from India, Iran, Belarus, Latin America, and Israel can hold their own when it comes to disruptive hacking or espionage operations. In addition, alleged “hacktivist” groups and threat actors of indeterminate origin engage in malign activities for often mysterious purposes.
Reuters journalists Chris Bing and Raphael Satter recapped at the recent Cyberwarcon event their ongoing investigation of a loose collective of Indian hackers that blur the lines between reputation management firms and outright hacking-for-hire services. Working for outfits such as Appin Security Labs and BellTrox, these hackers target lawyers, activists, executives, investors, pharmaceutical companies, energy firms, asset management companies, offshore banking entities, and high net worth individuals.
One target of Delhi-based BellTrox was Iranian-American aviation tycoon Farhad Azima, whose emails were…