US authorities are investigating allegations that an Indian government spy unit hacked into e-mails of an official US commission that monitors economic and security relations between the US and China, including cybersecurity issues.
The request for an investigation came after hackers posted on the Internet what purports to be an Indian military intelligence document on cyberspying, which discusses plans to target the commission — apparently using technical know-how provided by Western mobile phone manufacturers.
Appended to the document are transcripts of what are said to be e-mail exchanges among commission members.
“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, a spokesman for the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said on Monday.
The document’s authenticity could not be independently verified.
However, the US-China commission is not denying the authenticity of the e-mails.
Officials in India could not be reached for comment on the document’s content or authenticity.
One India-based Web site quoted an unnamed army representative as denying that India used mobile companies to spy on the commission and calling the documents forged.
The purported memo says that India cut a technological agreement — the details are not clear — with mobile phone manufacturers “in exchange for the Indian market presence.” It cites three: Research in Motion (RIM) — maker of the BlackBerry — Nokia and Apple.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said her company had not provided the Indian government with backdoor access to its products. A spokesman for Nokia declined comment; RIM officials could not be reached for comment.
The US Congress created the commission in 2000 to investigate and report on the national security implications of the economic relationship between the US and China. The bipartisan, 12-member panel holds periodic hearings each year on China-related topics such as cybersecurity, weapons proliferation, energy, international trade compliance and information policy.
The e-mail breach, if confirmed, would be the latest in a series of cyberintrusions that have struck US institutions ranging from the Pentagon and defense contractors to Google Inc.
A group calling itself the Lords of Dharmaraja said in an Internet post that it had uncovered the hacking. It said it had discovered the source codes of a dozen software companies in Indian Military Intelligence servers.
A US government official, who asked not to be identified, said the matter is under investigation. The FBI has jurisdiction to investigate cyberhacking inside the US. An FBI spokesman declined to comment.
Many of the previous hacks have been blamed on China. In this case, it is unclear whether India might have been eavesdropping on the US-China commission for itself or sought to pass any information collected to authorities in China.