According to the revelations, private investigators used a ‘hack-for-hire’ Indian-based gang to spy on journalists from the BBC and The Sunday Times, as well as UK government ministers, football and motor racing executives, and dissident oligarchs. The hackers targeted private email accounts of more than a hundred victims, following orders of private investigators working for autocratic states, and major law firms with bases in the City of London.
Since hacking is illegal, the practice is highly secretive and it is rare that any information leaks out. In order to obtain information, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Sunday Times conducted an investigation through undercover reporters who contacted Indian hackers and secretly filmed them, speaking about their work and the extent of illegal computer hacking across the City of London.
Tim Dawson, chair of the IFJ's expert group on surveillance said:“This is a wake-up call to all journalists. No one can be complacent about digital security. Robust password practices, caution with smartphones, and eternal vigilance are required if the integrity of our work is not going to be undermined”.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger: “For some years the IFJ has called for robust international regulation of the technology that allows snooping on journalists, be it by governments, commercial interests, or those with a grudge to settle. The ability of journalists to protect their sources underpins the operation of a free press. Its loss would seriously undermine the vital work of journalists to hold the rich and powerful to account.